Five top WTA athletes open up about mental health, how they manage pressure, self-care tips, and more.
When Modern Health became the official mental health partner of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) earlier this year, we knew one of the most rewarding parts would be the opportunity to share the mental health journeys of some of the world’s best athletes. We were honored to interview WTA athletes from across the globe about their mental health stories and how they manage the ups-and-downs on and off the court for our thought-provoking and unscripted video series, “The Real Me.” This five-part series explores the intense emotions these athletes experience, like anxiety, depression, and loneliness, and touches on their work with psychologists, how they manage pressure, self-care tips, and more. We are proud to bring these discussions to the forefront and want to thank Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins, Leylah Fernandez, Paula Badosa, and Maria Sakkari for helping to destigmatize mental health and encouraging people across the globe to continue this important conversation. Here is a recap of each episode of “The Real Me” with links to watch on YouTube.
Episode 1: Sloane Stephens
Sloane Stephens (USA) has won seven WTA singles titles, including the 2017 U.S. Open. In this episode, Stephens opens up about her journey with therapy, which she started at age 15 after her father passed away. Stephens’ mom is a psychologist, so therapy has always been normalized and encouraged as an avenue to talk about her feelings, express herself, and be completely transparent about her life. She acknowledges that therapy still carries a stigma, and that for many, “their perception of therapy is something has to be wrong with you in order for you to go to therapy. You have to have some mental problem in order to go to therapy, when that's just not the case.”Stephens also discusses the difficulty of managing expectations as a tennis pro and shares the self-care tools she’s implemented into her life, including meditation, stretching with her trainer, and quiet time. Watch the full video here.
Episode 2: Danielle Collins
Danielle Collins (USA) has won two WTA singles titles and has ranked as high as No. 7 in the world. In this episode, Collins talks about how fortunate she was to work with a sports psychologist at the University of Virginia and how that experience encouraged her to try to understand different emotions, feelings, and things she was going through at the time. “I feel like a lot of times there’s not a lot of access to mental healthcare for many, many people and fortunately for me that hasn’t been the case…I feel like I’ve learned so much through working with sports psychologists and different therapists over the years.” Collins believes there is more awareness and discussion around mental health than ever before, enabling people to get the help they need and make progress in their lives. For her, taking time to meditate helps when she’s feeling nervous and anxious, and she uses meditation to calm herself down before major tennis matches. Watch the full video here.
Episode 3: Leylah Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez (Canada) has won two WTA singles titles and has ranked as high as No. 13 in the world. In this episode, Fernandez explains how she’s been able to deal with pressure and stress from a young age by choosing to embrace big situations and understanding that it’s normal to fail from time to time. “Growing up, I’ve just said to myself, let’s just enjoy the moment. I try to think of all the positives that are happening, and that takes my mind away from the stress; from the pressure.” As a young athlete who has grown up with social media, Fernandez is learning how to manage her usage so it doesn’t impact her mental health. Since negative comments on social media are almost impossible to avoid, she makes an effort to brush them off and even use them as motivation. “Every time there’s a negative comment, or I see a negative comment, I laugh. It’s funny. I try to put a smile on my face.” Watch the full video here.
Episode 4: Paula Badosa
Paula Badosa (Spain) has won three WTA singles titles and has ranked as high as No. 2 in the world. In this episode, Badosa talks about her struggle with depression and anxiety early in her career and how it was compounded by injuries and disappointing results on the court. Working with a sports psychologist and surrounding herself with a supportive team helped her overcome these challenges. “I think having people by my side and feeling the love from them made me feel better and of course working every day on the mental part with a psychologist; slowly I was starting to feel better.” Badosa details the self-care regimen she’s adopted to be at her best, which includes morning meditations, yoga, and healthy eating. She says that staying physically healthy helps her mental health and vice versa. “When you feel good mentally, I think the body responds always. And…sometimes when you feel very good, you feel fit, you feel fast, and you have more confidence in yourself.”
Watch the full video here.
Episode 5: Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari (Greece) has won one WTA singles title and has ranked as high as No. 3 in the world. In this episode, she says that working with a psychologist has helped her deal with the pressure to win and stay at the top of the WTA rankings. She tries to speak with her psychologist weekly and regularly discusses topics beyond her career, like her family, team, and personal life. “If there is something that I want to focus on more, we just focus on that. We do a lot of exercises that are very helpful. I think it's the best gift that I've ever [given] to myself.” Sakkari also delves into how she handles loneliness in tennis, a common theme among the athletes we talked to for “The Real Me” series. Being involved in an individual sport with so much travel, she does feel lonely at times, but she says she leans on her team for support and plans social activities throughout the week. Watch the full video here.
We look forward to continuing our WTA partnership next year with the shared mission to promote healthier practices and conversations around mental health. We plan to expand our content series with new faces — stay tuned!
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