The following is reprinted from last year's Heroes Issue of TENNIS Magazine, where we selected passages from the last 50 years of our print and digital publications to highlight 50 worthy heroes.
Marino's early success at Roland Garros, where she has advanced to the second round of qualifying, is the latest notable accomplishment of her inspiring comeback. In 2019, the 28-year-old has reached three ITF-level semifinals, two ITF-level finals and, last week in Kurume, Japan, won a $60,000 tournament.
I strongly recommend watching our TenniStory on Marino, viewable at the video above, to get a better sense of the player, person and hero that she is.—Ed McGrogan
“Marino is not the first player to suffer from depression, but she’s one of the few who has confronted and admitted to struggling with it.” — Peter Bodo / February 2013
We have been lucky to hear Rebecca Marino’s story, and we would be smart to learn from it. In 2013, after rising as high as No. 38 in the world, the 22-year-old quit pro tennis because of depression. Her rise was unexpected, and the Canadian wasn’t prepared to deal with the media, the fans and the grueling schedule.
In retirement, Marino talked openly about mental health, even giving a TED Talk about her struggles. Willing to admit that you’re feeling sad is harder than covering it up, especially for athletes who often feel the need to wear a mask of toughness. Marino felt her saddest during the time she was achieving the most on the court.
“I would describe depression as feeling like you as you have a hole punched through your chest,” Marino says. “You feel very hollow and empty. Your once colorful life turns into black and white.”
After foregoing a scholarship to Georgia Tech as a teenager, the Vancouver resident enrolled in the University of British Columbia, and joined the rowing team. Her competitive juices still flowing, Marino got the feeling that her relationship with tennis wasn’t over yet.
Marino made her comeback this past January—five years after her last pro match. She immediately won three ITF $15,000 tournaments in a row. By October, her ranking was back inside the Top 200.
Marino’s story proves that professional success does not always equal personal happiness. More importantly, it’s OK if you need to step away.