Two days after The New York Times ran a profile on Canadian player Rebecca Marino's struggle with online abuse on Twitter, Marino announced she is taking another break from tennis, possibly a permanent one.
“I have decided to step away from tennis," she said. "This was not an easy decision, but there are a number of factors that have led me to this. Factors that are part of our society and that I am more than open to discuss, which I plan to do moving forward, because I know it’s part of my growth process.”
Marino, now No. 418 after her extended absence last year, reached a career-high of No. 38 in 2011. Her best result was a final appearance in Memphis that same year. She returned to the tournament this week and played what could be the final match of her career, a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Alexa Glatch in the first round of qualifying.
Marino initially told The New York Times that abusive comments online drove her decision to take a break from the tour for seven months last year, but in a conference call today she revealed she's suffered from depression for the last six years and used that break to seek help.
Marino's willingness to speak publicly about both depression and online abuse has brought the issues into the spotlight. The day The New York Times profile ran, Marino once again deleted her Twitter account and another Twitter stalwart, Britain's Laura Robson, suspended hers, too, though she had a change of heart a day later and reinstated it.
"Honestly I've had enough of the internet, twitter and facebook," Marino tweeted on Monday evening. "I am now deleting everything. Heck I should even throw out my computer. Thank you to all the wonderful fans for your support. You are the reason I keep going and staying positive. So goodbye twitter!"
Robson, who has been cited as one of the best tennis Twitter accounts to follow by various outlets, including SI.com, gave no indication that anything was wrong when she abruptly deleted her account. A quick look at some of the messages Robson received after Monday's three-set loss to Yulia Putintseva in Dubai give some insight into the negative feedback the 19-year-old received, which likely prompted her decision to briefly deactivate.
As Marino told The New York Times, some of the most vicious messages can come from disgruntled bettors who lost money on matches and take it out on the players. Not to be underestimated are the flurry of tweets Robson has received on an almost daily basis rife with sexual innuendo.
That Robson even entertained the idea of deleting her account so suddenly was particularly surprising given her popularity on Twitter. Her follower count of 170,000 is unmatched for any player ranked outside the top 40. By way of comparison, Victoria Azarenka barely beats her out at 183,000, and Maria Sharapova, who joined Twitter a month ago, trails with 132,000.
Marino isn't the first tennis player who has struggled with depression. In his autobiography "Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion's Toughest Match," former No. 1 Cliff Richey revealed his 40-year struggle. Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles and Pat Cash have discussed depression as well.