Mental Illness Plagues High-Profile Tennis Athletes

Written By Sophie Okolo

Mental illnesses can threaten the careers of many tennis athletes. The link between mental and physical health is not new, but recent reports are shedding light on the mental sickness that surrounds tennis tournaments. Since tennis is a physical sport, there is a growing concern about the effect this kind of illness has on athletic performances. Petra Kvitova, Mardy Fish and Monica Seles are just a few of the many high-profile athletes who have spoken up about mental health and depression.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, “about 25 percent of people worldwide will suffer from some form of mental health issue during the course of a year.” People who struggle with this issue may experience stress, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, relationship problems, or other psychological concerns, among other problems. Since tennis is a sport that “pushes athletes to the limits of physical and emotional stress,” these problems can become more difficult to control or manage.

Take for instance Czech tennis player Petra Kvitova. In Jan. 2015, the world’s No. 4-ranked player could not explain nor understand why she felt horrible despite having great results. She was mentally and physically exhausted from playing a large amount of tennis and a reality check from her coach allowed Kvitova to take a break from the sport. She recently revealed that “she is suffering from mononucleosis, an energy-sapping illness that does not respond to antibiotics,” states Simon Chambers, a freelance sports journalist for ESPN.

The symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe. Unlike Kvitova who took a short break to regain a positive attitude, other athletes have faced different circumstances. In 2012, American tennis player Mardy Fish suffered cardiac arrhythmia, which led to a severe anxiety disorder that made him unable to leave his house at times. Fish took a longer break than Kvitova and has hardly played on tour. He is currently on medication and will retire at the US Open this year.

It is great to see more current and former tennis players discuss their experiences with mental illness. This can raise awareness and encourage other athletes to speak out about this problem. It can also help the sport’s governing bodies to help athletes control and manage the disease.

What are your thoughts on mental illness in tennis?

Check out this video of Rebecca Marino, Canadian former tennis player who quit tennis in 2013 because she was suffering from depression.

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