When World Mental Health Day fell in the middle of the BNP Paribas Open, it was unsurprisingly a hot topic for the players in this year’s tournament.
Iga Swiatek, whose sports psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, is an integral part of her team, announced she would donate $50,000 of her prize money to a mental health non-profit organization. The 2020 Roland Garros champion drew a link between looking after her mental health and her on-court performance.
“It was always important to use that kind of help,” she said after her third-round win over Veronika Kudermetova. “I always thought that in my mental toughness there is some strength that I can use on court and I can also develop in that manner.”
Swiatek was inspired, she said, by former World No.1 Venus Williams’ initiative, in collaboration with BetterHelp and the WTA, to provide $2m of free therapy to the public.
Another major champion, Victoria Azarenka, discussed the progress society has made in terms of mental health awareness, emphasising that it should be protected, treated and viewed in the same way as physical health.
“I think the world is changing their perception of what mental health is,” Azarenka said after defeating rival Petra Kvitova in the third round. “We have that empathy when we see somebody who is physically hurt. You feel a certain empathic emotion towards somebody. Mental health is something that is invisible. I think it is as strong, as powerful as any physical health.”
Two players with a keen awareness of the importance of psychology to the game are Ajla Tomljanovic and Shelby Rogers, both of whom posted career-best results at Indian Wells this fortnight.
En route to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon this year, Tomljanovic opened up about the negativity that had afflicted her in her career, admitting questions would run through her mind such as, “Am I going to lose it mentally? Am I going to in a way choke or something?” The Australian also reflected on “heartbreaking moments” where she had lost leads against top players and said, “Mentally those matches took a little bit of a toll. It got in my head.”
Tomljanovic upsets Muguruza for 1st Top 10 win of year: Indian Wells Highlights