Tennis can be a lonely sport.
In less than twelve months, a WTA player can travel to 32 countries, going from tournament to tournament with little time off to see family and friends. And just when the whirlwind season is over, you hop on a plane and start all over again.
As romantic as the professional tennis lifestyle may sound, it can be difficult to handle — especially for young players.
In 2011, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino was one of the fastest rising stars on the WTA tour, reaching a career high ranking of No. 38. But in March 2012, the 21-year-old decided to take a break. A decision like that takes guts.
"It was definitely a difficult decision to take some time off," Marino said. "I was at the point where my body was telling me that I need a break."
At the time of her sabbatical, Marino also admitted to having mental fatigue, so she hopped on a plane from her training base in Montreal and headed home to Vancouver.
For four months Marino didn’t pick up her tennis racket. For a professional player, four months off the court is unheard of.
"I wanted to connect with my friends and family more," Marino said.
Now just three months after returning to training, Marino is making her comeback.
"I’m really, really happy," Marino said. "Mentally, I’m feeling very good. I feel like [the break] is playing off."
So after seven months away from the professional game, what has changed?
"I think I have a really good network of friends and family back home now," Marino said. "They’re very supportive. Knowing I have that support group there will help me in the long run."
In order to help her game on the court, Marino had to work on her life off the court.
"More things in my life off court [have changed]," Marino said. "Having friends outside of tennis who have different interests keep me humble. Getting more used to being around my family more, seeing my dog and the cat, silly stuff like that — the simple things [have helped me]."
But now Marino faces challenges on the court as she makes her comeback. As opposed to playing the bigger WTA tournaments that she’s used to, she’s playing the smaller ITF tournaments to dust off the rust and boost her ranking.
At last week’s ITF event in South Carolina, Marino had to qualify and win eight matches to win the first title of her comeback.
"I was a little rusty," Marino admitted. "Just getting all those matches in made all the difference."
Marino’s goal is to qualify for January’s Australian Open and hopefully pick up some wild card entries into WTA tournaments early next year.
"I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself," Marino said. "I’m really looking forward to next year and I’ll take it as it comes."
With her killer forehand, huge serve, and new attitude, Marino is a player to watch in 2013.