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Alison van Uytvanck backs Fish, Osaka raising awareness of mental health issues on tour
The Belgian is into her first final of 2021 at the WTA 250 tournament in Nur-Sultan.
Published Oct 01, 2021
WATCH: Van Uytvanck pushed Elina Svitolina to three sets at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
Belgium's Alison van Uytvanck says awareness of mental health issues on tour has increased with more players speaking up, and it's now easier for her to talk about her own experiences.
She is playing in the Astana Open in Kazakhstan this week, but did watch former No. 8 Mardy Fish's Untold documentary, in which he describes the anxiety symptoms that led him to stop his playing career.
“It has been taboo to talk about it, to not openly talk about it. I saw the documentary with Mardy and I think it is tough for non-tennis players to know the pressure that we are having and what comes with it," Van Uytvanck told the Astana Open website.
"The anxiety on court and off it. People have it but we handle the pressure on top of it."
But this reluctance could be changing: four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has spoken publicly this season about prioritizing mental health, and Emma Raducanu acknowledged the way pressure had affected during her run to the fourth-round of Wimbledon, just weeks before the 18-year-old won the US Open. That helps other players, Van Uytvanck adds.
"I have been there myself, having some issues, and I think it is nice that we have somebody like that who can speak about it and show the world that, ‘Hey, I am strong enough to come back even stronger and to win the tournament,’" she said. "It is not easy, but being able to have that documentary, and Osaka and Emma Raducanu speaking about it and being aware about it, makes it easier for all of us to talk about it and to feel more comfortable and hopefully, to get the best help possible.”
The 27-year-old is also getting inspiration from a fellow Belgian, four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who is making her second comeback from retirement. The 38-year-old Clijsters, who has three children, played the WTA event in Chicago this week.
"It is nice to have a player who I was looking up to when I was a small kid back playing," said Van Uytvanck, No. 89 in the rankings and a career-high No. 37 back in 2018. "When she was winning the Slams and all this, I was waking up to watch her matches. It is nice being on the court myself, trying to win matches, and she is actually trying again.
"I don’t know how she is feeling physically. I think she is enjoying herself on court, so I think that is the most important thing for her."
Seeded second, she is into the final of the Astana Open.