Canada's Rebecca Marino primed for Grand Slam comeback

Marino, 30, qualified for her first Grand Slam appearance since 2013 after going through an 18-month recovery from a career-threatening foot injury and the death of her father.

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Canadian tennis player Rebecca Marino is looking forward to playing in next month’s Australian Open after going through what she described as the “most challenging year of my whole life.”

Marino, 30, qualified for her first Grand Slam appearance since 2013 after going through an 18-month recovery from a career-threatening foot injury and the death of her father, Joe.

“My father was very important in my decision-making for my comeback,” Marino said Wednesday in a videoconference call from Melbourne. “His health problems and challenges inspired me. Considering 2020 was the most challenging year of my whole life, I’m proud to make it here.”

Marino was recovering from a torn plantar fascia when her father died of cancer last April at age 59.

“I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to compete again,” Marino said of her injury. “I started on crutches, I couldn’t put any pressure on my foot, and then I walked with a boot for two months. I could barely walk for 15 minutes, then it transitioned to 30 minutes and then an hour. In March or April I got on the court again, and by September I wasn’t having any pain on the court and there was no pain after, and I used the few months until now to get my conditioning back.”

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Marino grew up in Vancouver but moved to Montreal in 2009 to refine her game at the National Training Centre. She reached a career-high No. 38 in 2011, but mental and physical fatigue forced her to walk away from the game shortly after her last Grand Slam appearance, at the 2013 Australian Open.

Marino remembers the sun was shining, but doesn’t remember the details of her straight-set loss to Shuai Peng.

“I think I was already contemplating taking a step away from tennis and I blotted it out of my mind,” she said.

Marino went back home, studied English literature, tried her hand at rowing, found help in a support group and became an advocate for mental health issues.

She breezed through Australian Open qualifying in Dubai with three straight-set wins and reset her goals for Melbourne.

“I have to keep pushing my goals higher and higher,” she said. “I’d like to at least win a round, but whether I win a round or not, I just want to leave it all on the court and maximize the chance I have here.”

Marino said she was fortunate there were no COVID-19 cases on her charter flight to Australia and she is allowed to train while in quarantine. She’s in a two-player cohort with Russian Kamilla Rakhimova and they are allowed 90 minutes in the gym, two hours on court and an hour of stretching. She will play in a warm-up tournament beginning Sunday.

“The courts are quite fast and that suits my game, because I have a good serve and play a power game from the baseline,” she said.

phickey@postmedia.com

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