Rebecca Catherine Marino, born December 16, 1990 in Toronto, comes from a family steeped in tennis. She became interested in tennis at the age of 10 with the sole purpose of spending time with her family. One thing leading to another, this hobby has clearly become a passion with a winning mindset and a desire to succeed. At the age of 17, she turned down a scholarship at Georgia Tech (Atlanta) to become a professional player. Since her debut in 2008, she played in three finals on the ITF circuit, winning a title in Trecastagni, Italy. In August 2010, she reached the main draw of a Grand Slam at the US Open for the first time. At the age of 19, she defeated Ksenia Pervak (ex-37th in the world) in the first round and then faced one of the legends of women's tennis, Venus Williams, in the second round. Despite the defeat (7-6, 6-3) against the number 4 in the world at the time, this reference match will allow her to continue her ascent in order to get closer to the top 100.
His ranking (104th) allows him to make his debut at the Australian Open. This second Grand Slam experience will also result in a defeat but with honors in three sets (6-3, 5-7, 9-7) against the 7th world ranking Francesca Schiavone. The 20-year-old Canadian won her first WTA Tour title in Memphis a few weeks later, taking advantage of Slovakia's Magdaléna Rybarikova's forfeit in the final. Until the following summer, Rebecca Marino continued to climb the rankings to 38th in the world. Now better known to the general public, many see her as one of the most promising players of her generation. But all too soon, her career would soon turn to tragedy.
Depression and cyber-bullying, towards early retirement?
In January 2012, she lost in the first round of the Australian Open to Hungary's Greta Arn, a former top 40 player. A defeat revealing the malaise that gnaws at her from the inside. Throughout the tournaments, she feels a great emptiness. She is no longer very happy on the courts, far from her family. Rebecca Marino sounds the alarm and takes an 8-month break. She tries to come back at the end of the season but the conclusion is implacable: she is depressed. Loneliness has become for the young player more difficult to beat than any opponent. The passion is no longer there and the criticism on the internet does not help her to get up.
"These factors, which are inherent to our company, were part of the process that led me to make my decision. But I am quitting tennis because I no longer want to sacrifice my happiness to pursue my career," said Rebecca Marino in the Canadian press. "Some people wrote to me that I had to die, others insulted me in a vulgar way, and that's just a small glimpse. I was too sensitive to everything that was said and written about me. Instead of avoiding comments, I was constantly looking for them on social networks and on the internet," concluded the woman who had reached the third round at Roland Garros in 2011. Rebecca Marino, too affected by these criticisms, decided to close her Facebook and Twitter accounts in 2013 and is trying to recharge her batteries with those close to her, far from the courts and social networks? It is thus at 22 years old, after a new defeat in the first round of the Australian Open against Shuai Peng, that she chooses this time to take a definitive break to get help and take back her life in hand. "A lot was written about me and I'm very sensitive. I'm very curious so I want to know everything they say about me. Afterwards I realize that I shouldn't have watched. They would tell me, "I lost so much money because of your defeat, you should burn in hell". You shouldn't be afraid to talk about it. We have nothing to blame ourselves for. If you are being bullied or cyberbullied or if someone is harassing you, it is better to talk about it than to keep it all to yourself. Sometimes, because we are professional athletes, people put us on a pedestal and forget that we are normal, human beings too. I tend to repress my emotions. I keep everything inside me and then I realize that it affects me on the field too," she said in an interview for the New York Times in February 2013.
Rebecca Marino is back home in the Ontario region with a willingness to get help. She makes the decision to see a psychologist to move forward. The help of this professional was truly instrumental in her rebuilding. She returned to school in British Columbia, north of Vancouver, to learn English literature. She took up sports again by joining a rowing team and thus discovered collective work and group spirit. Rowing was not chosen by chance since her uncle George Hungerford, who was her inspiration during her youth, won the Olympic gold medal in 1964 in Tokyo. She says that this routine centered around studies, rowing and her family played a big part in this revival. At the age of 27, she found her way back to the tennis courts by coaching the juniors at the British Columbia Tennis Centre, a regional structure of the Canadian Federation. She is passionate about this activity and it brings her a lot of joy in her daily life. She likes to pass on her experience to the future talents of the country. In 2017, Rebecca learned that her father had cancer. This terrible news is like an electric shock for her. She really realizes that life is too short to not take the reins. She feels a sense of incompleteness about tennis. She feels a desire for revenge and decides to finish what she started in 2010. She likes the experience as a coach but she wants to become a competitor again. In August, she made her decision and came out of retirement to find her way back to coaching with a certain Sylvain Bruneau, Bianca Andreescu's current coach, and Simon Larose (former 189th player in the world) who are taking up the challenge to help her return to the professional circuit. On January 29, 2018, she makes her big comeback to competition in Antalya, Turkey with a much stronger mentality and a desire to return to her best level. She managed the feat of winning 3 ITF tournaments in a row (at $15,000) and won 20 straight victories to climb to 630th place in the world. This return is in any case noticed on the side of the Federation. The player is called in Fed Cup in April 2019 for a play-off match against the Czech Republic in Prostejov. It is Rebecca who is sent to the front for the first game where she will not be able to do anything against Muchova (6-3, 6-0): "I am happy to have had the opportunity to play again for Canada 8 years after my last game. It's disappointing to lose the game, but I'm very proud to have made it this far. It was a good match, I was a little nervous at first, but I managed to calm down around the middle of the first set. There were a lot of good points, but unfortunately some of the most important ones got away from me. "The next day, Rebecca also lost (6-3, 6-4) to Vondrousova, a finalist at Roland Garros a few weeks later. One thing leading to another, she is getting closer to the top 100 (140th in July 2019) but this comeback is stopped by an injury to her abdominal muscles that will keep her off the courts in the second half of 2019. While she was expecting to return in 2020, the pandemic stopped her once again in her tracks. A year also mourning the death of her father, Joseph, after three years of fighting cancer.
After so much difficulty and obstacles, Rebecca Marino, who turned 30 in December, didn't give up and got her ticket to the first round of the Australian Open which starts in less than three weeks thanks to a smoothly conducted qualifying round with no lost sets.
A source of inspiration for the younger generation
After a complicated journey, Rebecca wants to share her experience and open herself to the new generations in order to advise them. This role of big sister has been very useful for young players like Bianca Andreescu or Leylah Fernandez. Fernandez expressed her deep respect for Rebecca in an interview for Radio-Canada after her 2019 Junior French Open title: "I first met her two years ago in Montreal. She was preparing for her return to the circuit after a five-year absence. With the innocence of my 15 years, I asked her why she stopped playing tennis at 23. I hadn't guessed her answer.... Rebecca then took the time to explain to me the reasons why she had retired, even though her future seemed so promising. At 21, she was close to the top 30 in the world, but a malaise was eating away at her insides. As the tournaments went on, she felt a great emptiness. She was no longer happy on the court, away from her family. For her, it was the end of the world. So she chose to take a break, get on with her life, go back to school and be with her family. I was speechless and my eyes were wide open. My father also listened with admiration. You had to be a strong woman to make a decision of this magnitude. She was told that she could reach the top 20, that she could fight for the top spots in the world. But Rebecca listened to herself. And today, at 29 years old, she is 162nd and she shares her joy of playing tennis with young girls like me. She spoke with Bianca too. She is a big sister for a whole generation. I had the chance to play with her. We even won together in Gatineau. So I consider her a role model. » A testimony that speaks volumes about the fact that Rebecca Marino has clearly made Canadian tennis history. It was a complicated experience that made her stronger, but it didn't stop her from talking about it around her to raise awareness among the young players who are about to discover the professional circuit. An experience that she did not hesitate to share in the FearlesslyGIRL program created by Canadian Kate Whitefield. A movement that seeks to raise awareness among young players between the ages of 11 and 18, with the goal of building self-esteem and providing support through group discussions and activities. The American player Madison Keys is one of its headliners. Since she openly talked about the depression issues that kept her out of competition, Rebecca Marino has acknowledged to our colleagues at Radio Canada that she has new responsibilities: "I don't want to be a role model, but I want the girls to know that they are not alone. They can take aspects of my life to inspire and help themselves. It's important for young girls to see that athletes can be vulnerable, to see that athletes are normal and authentic," she says. Although it sometimes takes a huge effort, she wants to share her story with the girls, especially to save someone else from the hell she went through. She talks to them about bullying, image, media, social networks and mental illness.
Much more than a story, a life lesson
After a complicated 5-year period between 2013 and 2018, Rebecca Marino is back on the circuit, better mentally equipped to enjoy the courts while trying to get back to the top 100 in the world. She has been able to rebuild herself and is preparing as best she can to face the everyday life of a professional player who is much more complicated than it seems. She has shown remarkable courage to get help and is not afraid to talk about it today to help or prevent future generations. Her story deserves to be heard. Cyber-bullying is a scourge for many people around the world, especially for the new "hyper-connected" generations. Many tennis players are victims and too few people talk about it. These verbal aggressions, these threats, are intolerable. But as long as the public authorities do not tackle this scourge, young people must first be trained to deal with this harassment and mentally prepared to deal with everything that happens off the court. This story, particularly touching, imposes respect for this player who, through her latest results in Dubai, shows that she will not give up and wants to take her revenge on a past that has marked her with a red iron. She has shown that she still has an immense talent, particularly in service but also in the quality of her ball striking, power and precision. The former 38th in the world can now rely on her maturity to try to return to the top 100. Spending a few laps in Melbourne would already be a huge victory.
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