Tara Costello of the Canadian Centre for Mental Health performs guided medication with Bianca Andreescu

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

Mike McIntyre (@McIntyreTennis) is the co-host of Match Point Canada, the official podcast of Tennis Canada.

Bianca Andreescu knows first-hand the importance of taking care of ones mental health. The Canadian Star and 2019 National Bank Open champion took six months away from the game to find the happiness that she felt was missing from her day-to-day life as a professional tennis player.

Particularly during the challenges of the pandemic over the past two and a half years, everyone has been feeling the added pressures both at work and at home, and pro athletes are no different. That’s part of the reason why Tennis Canada has launched the “Mental Timeout” initiative here at the National Bank Open, to help fans and players alike better manage the stresses encountered in their lives.

Part of the groundbreaking initiative is The Positive Court Pledge by Tennis Canada which, “Acknowledges the need for a more open conversation to reduce the stigma around struggles with mental health.” Young tennis fans have also been encouraged to fill out affirmation cards for the players on site here at Sobeys Stadium with positive and supportive messages that Tennis Canada has been passing along.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

For the players it has been a most welcome addition and something they would like to see at other tournaments along the busy WTA schedule. Bianca Andreescu has been hugely supportive of implementing this plan and has taken a lead role for Tennis Canada as an ambassador associated with the project. In speaking with Andreescu in a pre-tournament interview for the Match Point Canada podcast, the Canadian star was eager to address what “Mental Timeout” means for her personally.

“I think it’s incredible timing and for it to be announced right before the hard-court swing here in Toronto. It’s kind of like everything happens for a reason or it’s meant to be to be in a way. Being the first to have the opportunity to say that I am an ambassador for something like this for me is incredible because I’ve had a goal to be a part of something like this and I’m just super excited to see how it all turns out because there are definitely some great minds who are a part of it. Having Tennis Canada be one of the first to start this on Tour is really great and hopefully more people [tournaments] can have an example for that.”

Andreescu has been very vocal in addressing her own struggles and challenges with mental health in recent months and has even authored her own children’s book that focuses on the topic called, “Bibi’s Got Game.” Speaking first-hand as a parent who has read the book (numerous times) to his children, I can attest that it definitely tackles the issue in a way that allows for further conversation and at an age-appropriate level. Encouraging kids to focus on their breathing, trying meditation as a way to calm down as well as being mindful of the things we have to be thankful for in our lives are all talked about by Andreescu in the book.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

Former World No. 1 Naomi Osaka has been another player who has really helped usher in an era in professional tennis where it’s encouraged to talk about how you’re doing in terms of mental health. She wrote a very candid article for Time Magazine last year entitled, “It’s Ok Not To Be Ok” and shared how the intense scrutiny in the sport has made her feel over her relatively short career thus far.

Like Andreescu, she too decided to take some time away from the game to put herself first. Not an easy decision when ranking points, prize money and sponsorship obligations are on the line but one that hopefully sets an example to other players about what is most important as they try to lead lengthy and healthy careers in professional tennis. When you see a tournament like the National Bank Open and an organization such as Tennis Canada then putting in a legitimate effort to address the topic it also lends towards a supportive environment and hopefully long-lasting change.

From The Archives

Photo : Mike McIntyre

Two of the players who have been most open to discussing Mental Health in professional tennis are Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu. Here’s a picture of the two of them from the 2019 National Bank Open draw ceremony in Toronto where they seemed to have a genuinely positive rapport between one another.