Life as a Tennis Player

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?

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10 thoughts on “Life as a Tennis Player

  1. We have enjoyed your career and your second time around, specially so.
    Wishing you all the best, and looking forward to whatever you do next. Given the surpassing quality of these pages, you’ll be in the highest demand.
    Best Wishes

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  2. Good luck Naomi with your future in whatever direction it takes you. Thanks for giving it another go and a chance for your fans to follow your progress and evolution. It’s good to have such an honest and open assessment of how and why tennis players reach these lifestyle decisions. Very much enjoy your blogs so happy they will continue.

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  3. I’m not going to say this is a shame or bad news. It is actually great news. You had a battle with mental health issues and you are winning. You’ve been an excellent role model. You faced the demon’s that made you bow out before and took the decision in your own hands to step away.

    I am unbelievably proud of you!

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  4. I’ll miss following your results, but I wish you happiness and success in the future, and hope your experiences will enable you to make a real difference to others, be it in coaching or inspirational speeches.

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  5. Hi Naomi,

    Good luck for the future, and I have no doubt you made the right decision. I hope you carry on writing your blog though; you’ve clearly got a talent for explaining things and there’s clearly a lot that people who’ve watched the game and have never played the game professionally don’t know about the life of a tennis player.

    For example, Petra Kvitova used to blog about her life as a tennis player for the BBC Sport tennis page, and even at her level she mentioned only getting something to eat in the car between the airport and the hotel – and that was just after she’d won a big match.

    You may know that Mardy Fish has had to retire owing to acute anxiety, so you’re not alone in having to retire from, tennis owing to mental health issues.

    I think something needs to change in professional tennis; it is just so relentless and tough on the body. The number of players dropping out of Beijing right now with sickness and injuries (and others who try to play on even though they’re clearly too tired to play their best tennis) is just ridiculous at the moment. People are even pulling out of finals with injuries, as Garbine Muguruza Blanco did against Venus in Wuhan last week.

    Best wishes,

    Graham Giles, Cornwall .

    P.S. If you’d care to reply, what do you think of Aga Radwanska’s suggestion that the tennis season be limited to 9 months to give players a chance to recover?

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