It is undeniable that tennis has professionalized at a different speed in the last twenty years. Materials, physical training, food, injury prevention, all areas have gained knowledge. Also that of psychology and mental strength, although perhaps this is the one that is least often implemented. If everyone says that games are won with the head, why don’t they put tournaments to a group of specialists at the service of the players? In an intense report prepared by Tennis.com, the story of Cliff richey It serves to discover the madness that can come to inhabit the head of a professional in your day to day. And the higher your success, the more ghosts appear.

But who was Cliff Richey? Born 73 years ago, this right-hander became the best American tennis player in the 1970s, was a quarter-finalist in the four Grand Slam and even led his country to conquer a Davis Cup. The successes were palpable, what people did not see was what happened when they left the track. The Texas man liked to drink, as much as the profession allowed him. Little by little he was entering that negative spiral that was overcoming him. Every day he drank more than the day before, to which was added insomnia, pills, total disorder.

“I didn’t know what was wrong. My brain was in the middle of a storm for five or six years, I was self-medicating with alcohol and functional depressants, but I couldn’t find a solution. I always had a lot of anxiety, even in my junior stage, but I ruled it out. I did not know that this was not normal, in my family they only cared about tennis, how good it could be compared to others, “says Cliff.

It was time to rethink everything, but Richey did not understand what to do. In the end, loneliness and lag was the norm for many elite athletes and not for that reason they went out to tell it, much less to ask for help. No one had ever publicly touched on the subject of depression or anxiety, it was inconceivable in such a competitive world. Only Artur Ashe dared at certain points in his career, although they went unnoticed. The normal thing was to take a breath, clench your teeth and fill that spirit of self-sufficiency. “I liked clear things, I liked that in tennis you either won or lost, there was no place to hide. Whatever you did was in the newspaper the next day, all you could turn to was your own ability, I could always count on that to get me where I wanted to go, “recalls the player.

Until the day came when Cliff was left empty, he was losing qualities, as if he had forgotten to play tennis. He decided to retire and try his luck in golf, but the same ghosts also appeared there. His mind went dark, he was knocked out by the situation to the lowest point. Things couldn’t get worse, so he had no choice but to turn to specialists. A doctor gave him therapy, prescribed antidepressants and so he was able to at least return to compete in golf, until retiring in 2007. “From my tennis experience, I always knew that there was a possibility of turning a defeat around. Once I understood what was happening to me, I made depression my final opponent. Now I read and listen to many more cases than in my time, but I think the system has not yet changed enough, “said the former world No. 16.

With the epoch jump many things changed. The cases of depression and anxiety in sports were still there, the difference is that now there was no longer so much suspicion for being helped. One of the tennis players who have spent years trying to break that barrier is Noah Rubin. “I am passionate about mental health, I am passionate about knowing my feelings and sharing what I feel. Tennis is a sport where you are alone most of the time, where you are continually dealing with failure most of the time. You are also struggling financially, so there is a risk that everything will turn into a snowball. I could list a list of several players who, to face and prepare for the next tournament, spend 12 hours drinking, “acknowledges the American in this same report.

“I feel like there’s a disconnect between tennis players and fans, but the way this sport is promoted prevents fans from relating more deeply to the players. All of those tennis player concerns are now a little dated. I have always had another philosophy, although we did not come to the tour to make friends either. Of course, if I am in the third set against an opponent, I am not thinking about what he confessed of himself in an interview in the past, this does not work like that. Many show that toxic masculinity of alpha male, but I do not think it is relevant when it comes to winning a match, “reinforces the 24-year-old.

That thought was what led Rubin to create a blog where his circuit mates could overturn those deep-rooted thoughts that are so difficult to expose with a tape recorder in front or at a press conference with hundreds of people. “Wanted to Behind the racquet It was like a kind of therapy to start a conversation and make at least people think about how we players feel. We need to normalize the situation when we talk about anxiety ”, maintains the current Nº225 of the ranking.

Surely Cliff Richey would have been very happy to compete in the current era, more transparent and less lonely than his. Although of course, perhaps without that experience he would not have learned so much, he would not have come to write a self-help book with his memories and he would not have recovered in this way the relationship with his daughter. “Many people still don’t know what the signs of depression are. I always recommend that you think about what loss is affecting you, that you read about the disease, that you identify and locate the problem. Tennis is a selfish sport, it’s all about you, so I thought that with my experience I could save other people. I would like to be known as a pretty good tennis player and also a mental health advocate. I love to kick my butt in depression whenever an opportunity comes along. ”