Martina Trevisan’s French Open Is a Welcome Stop on the Long Path Back From Illness

PARIS — Martina Trevisan’s path to the French Open quarterfinals was harder to negotiate than the Arc de Triomphe roundabout. In a women’s draw that has seen most of the top-seeded players spin out, Trevisan personifies the resilience of those who have found a way through.

There were the three qualifying matches that she won just to enter the main singles draw. The questionable line call that went against her while she was trying to serve out her second-round match against the teenage phenom Coco Gauff that she weathered. The two match points against her in the third round against 20th-seeded Maria Sakkari that she withstood. And her first defeat of a top-10 player, which she walked off with on Saturday in the fourth round against No. 8 Kiki Bertens.

But nothing 2020 has unleashed on Trevisan — not this year’s French Open draw nor the coronavirus pandemic, which ravaged her native Italy and heavily compressed the WTA Tour schedule — was harder for her to negotiate, she said, than the eating disorder that stilled her tennis career for four years, beginning in 2010.

“I know that I have done a great job,” said Trevisan, who recently started to share the details of her harrowing journey, first in July in an athletes’ blog, The Owl Post, in which she described trying to be seen by losing so much weight from her 5-foot-3 frame that she all but disappeared.

Trevisan, 26, relishes her Tuesday match against Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland, not just because of the progress it represents — she had never won a main draw match in a major before last week — but also for the opportunity it presents to help others.

“It’s a message I want sent to other people that are suffering right now not to give up,” Trevisan said on Sunday. “Never give up.”

Trevisan’s mother is a tennis coach, her father was a professional soccer player in Italy’s second division and her older brother was a top-ranked junior tennis player. By the time she turned 15, Trevisan wrote, she was a high-ranked junior tagged for a bright professional future.

In 2009, she reached the semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon in girls’ doubles, and finished the year ranked No. 694 in women’s singles. Around the same time, her father learned he had a degenerative disease. It consumed his focus, leaving her feeling adrift.

His illness, friction with her mother and the increased pressure she felt to succeed overwhelmed Trevisan, who wrote, “I began to feel, strongly, the rush around me to reap all the fruits even before the tree had time to take root.”

Trevisan said she wanted to live like a teenager, “recovering, perhaps with interest, all that I felt I had lost in previous years.”

She said she resented her muscular body, which made her stand out, and so she began cutting back on her caloric consumption until she was subsisting on a daily diet of less than half a cup of cereal and one piece of fruit.

“Only disappearing,” she wrote, “people would be able to see me.”

On Sunday, looking back at that time, Trevisan said: “I had a really bad moment, and in that moment I forgot everything about tennis. Tennis wasn’t my life anymore.”

Trevisan said she sought inpatient treatment for anorexia after realizing, “I want to live, so step by step I must try.”

For four years, her focus, she said, “was on Martina and her life. I take my life in my hands.”

In her post, she wrote that she had to re-educate herself about food and “make peace with my wounds.”

Tennis became part of her healing. First, it was a means to make money by teaching lessons. Then she began to compete again, but this time in a more healthful manner, without pushing her body until it broke down.

“When I decided to play tennis again, it was a new chapter of my tennis life,” Trevisan said Sunday.

In 2014, Trevisan returned to the world rankings, at No. 590. Her climb since then has been steady, and she reached No. 153 in 2019. She advanced to the 2020 Australian main draw as a qualifier and lost in the first round to Sofia Kenin, the eventual champion.

Trevisan arrived home from a WTA tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, as Italy was locking down because of the coronavirus outbreak. She spent the next five months working on her mental health with a counselor and on her physical conditioning through Skype sessions with her trainer.

“Now I’m in the quarterfinal and everything is perfect for me,” she said. “I don’t feel any pressure.”

Ranked 159th, Trevisan is joined in the final eight by another qualifier ranked outside the top 100, Nadia Podoroska of Argentina. It is the first time since 1978 that two qualifiers have advanced this deep in the French Open men’s or women’s draw.

Trevisan’s opponent, Swiatek, is the youngest player left on the women’s side. Trevisan said she had great empathy for teenagers trying to make their way in a sport where the solo competition can reduce life to what feels like a zero-sum game.

In the past few months, she said, she has been contacted by a few other players with disordered eating. “They ask me for help, like what did you do when you felt like this?” Trevisan said. “For me, it’s a pleasure to help. I know I can recommend something, but the work they have to do by themselves.”

Source: Tennis -

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