Life is tough as a tennis player. I have not met one player who has told me they enjoy the lifestyle of being on the road 40 weeks a year. It is lonely, tiring and relentless… but they love the game so much that they are happy to make these sacrifices to do what they love. If you love the game, but you don’t like the lifestyle it is possible to find a balance which you are happy and comfortable with and makes it all worth it. I however, love the game but absolutely hate the lifestyle. It doesn’t suit my personality and as much as I have tried to find a way to balance things it has not been possible.
I have had my battles with depression and an eating disorder and I have won. It has been such hard work to find myself where I am today, and even though I am now happy and healthy, it continues to be a part of my life that I must constantly work at. I need to make smart decisions and look out for number one, which I now intend to do, as I will no longer be competing professionally.
The enjoyment I get out of the game does not outweigh the difficulties I face with life on the road, so it is out of balance and will never work for me. I am so happy that I gave it another shot and really I did enjoy the tennis so much, but maybe I was a little naïve to think that things could be different this time. I tried as hard as I could to get everything in place for me to do my best but I now recognize that while all of these things can help they cannot solve the problem.
I have tried many times to explain life on tour but never successfully! I think you really have to do it for a year before you can understand. When I stopped competing in 2011 for the reasons above many people were shocked and disappointed, even annoyed that I would waste my talent like that… these people have never done it and could not understand why I didn’t love everything about this opportunity. On the other hand when players and former players heard my explanation, every single one said something along the lines of “yeah it is a brutal lifestyle and I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to do it”.
I am now really excited to move on from it knowing I cannot possibly have any regrets. My love and passion for the game will always ooze out of me and I will continue to work in tennis. I love writing and speaking about tennis so I will continue my blog while looking for other opportunities in these areas. I have started speaking in schools about being a professional athlete and the skills I have learnt, and I hope to motivate the next generation to strive for more than they are given, and achieve more than others think they can.
On Friday I gave an informal presentation to some students about mental health and my own experiences, breaking down the stereotypes, as I don’t fit into any of them really. Thank you to the charity STEM4 for having me as your guest speaker, and I would really love to go in to more schools and speak about this as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it went down really well.
As well as all of this I will of course get back in to some coaching although I am not sure in quite what capacity yet. These are exciting times and really I am open to any opportunity that comes my way! I am sure that in future posts I will break down the professional tennis player lifestyle a bit more as it is important for young players to be prepared for it. I knew how tough the training would be, how competitive it would be and how hard I would have to work… but I hadn’t even thought about the other hours of the day, the travel, jetlag and boredom. Maybe with a little bit more preparation it wouldn’t have hit me so hard and I would have coped better.
Thanks for all of the support and a massive thank you to JTC, in particular Alan Jones and Jo Durie who are just such inspirational and positive people to work with. I could not be more appreciative of how much they have helped me grow as a person, coach and player.
People will say it’s a shame, but its really not. I am happier now so what’s a shame about that?