It wasn't that long ago that Milos Raonic and Rebecca Marino stood on similar ground in the tennis world. Rewind to July 2011 and the two young Canadians were ascending up the men’s and women’s rankings respectively. Raonic, who was 19 years old at the time, was hovering around the top 25 spots in the world rankings and Marino also 19 then, had climbed to no. 38 in the women’s ranks.
Raonic has continued his ascent over the past year and a half and is coming off a win at the SAP Open last weekend, a tournament that he has now won three years in a row. As of Monday the 22-year-old Raonic was sitting at No. 14 in the ATP rankings.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Marino. Though at one time she appeared to be a rising star in Canadian tennis, the Vancouver B.C., native has received more attention recently for her struggles off the court than her successes on it.
And on Wednesday Marino announced that she'd be stepping away from professional tennis.
“I have decided to step away from tennis," Marino said in a statement released by Tennis Canada. "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.”
On Sunday the New York Times published a story about Marino and how her quick rise in the tennis ranks in 2011 came along with an unkind spotlight.
But with her sudden rise came a spotlight she often found harsh, and occasionally cruel online chatter that overwhelmed her. Marino realized the damaging effect the Internet critiques often had on her, but she still struggled to keep herself from falling into the rabbit hole of columns, comments and fan message boards.
After losing in the first round in Memphis last February, Marino reached a breaking point. She retreated to her family home in Vancouver, leaving the sport behind, unsure if she would return.
She did return, seven months later, after missing three Grand Slam events and a chance to play in her first Olympic Games. Last week she returned to Memphis, losing in a qualifying round match Saturday.
“Things were being written about me, and I’m quite sensitive about that,” Marino said in an interview last week. “And I’m quite nosy, so I’ll look it up. And then I’ll realize I shouldn’t have looked it up.”
She added, “With professional athletes, people put them on a pedestal sometimes, and they forget that they’re actually a person still.”
Marino also admitted to the NYT that what bothered her most was the negative messages people would send her via Twitter including gamblers who would write things like, ‘You gave that match away, you cost me such-and-such amount of money, you should go burn in hell,’ or ‘You should go die.’
There’s no doubt Twitter can bring out the worst in sports fans as not only does the popular social media website give you the ability to contact professional athletes and have a back and forth with them should they choose to respond, but it allows you to do so anonymously if you choose not to include your name in your personal ‘handle.’
For example in 2012 Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff both played key roles in the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens playoff losses and faced cruel (to say the least) reaction from fans on social media.
As for her the negativity she’d faced on Twitter and Facebook, Marino will no longer have to worry about that as she decided on Monday to delete both her personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.
She posted the following on her Facebook account on Monday:
“Thank you to all of my fans for their support. This will be my last message on Facebook, as I will be deleting this page shortly. Thank you all for your support. I just need to detach myself from the social media for a while. Thank you for understanding.
“I realize for every bad comment there are more good ones, so a big THANK YOU for your comments and support and positivity. You (my fans, friends, and family) are the ones who keep me going.
“Much love, Rebecca, xoxo”
Hopefully Marino can put this behind her and use all the negativity she's faced as a motivational tactic in trying to eventually restore her professional tennis career.