Home » Chwaliska once dealt with depression, now she’s in trouble again. “I’m a little scared” Tennis

Chwaliska once dealt with depression, now she’s in trouble again. “I’m a little scared” Tennis

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Chwaliska once dealt with depression, now she’s in trouble again.  “I’m a little scared” Tennis

When talking to Maja Chwalińska, it is hard to believe that she is less than 22 years old, because she often surprises with her maturity. But now, to the set of her features – unfortunately – you also have to add a lack of faith in your abilities and a very low self-esteem. Chwalińska herself is surprised why she receives a lot of support from the fans. And she needs it right now. Since returning to the game in the spring after a half-year break, she can’t find herself on the court. In the fall, she had a career-high 149th place, now – for the first time in four years – she fell out of the top 400 and is quickly saying goodbye to the next tournaments. And again – as in the most difficult period in the past – he bases his opinion about himself on sports results. He knows it’s a mistake, but explains that it’s hard to avoid.

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Agnieszka Niedziałek: It’s been a difficult time in your life again. Many people learned about how difficult it was during the press conference during the WTA tournament in Warsaw. Is the lack of faith in winning the match due to a longer than originally planned break after knee surgery?

Maja Chwalińska: To be honest, I don’t know. I think it’s all a bit of an overlap here. I think the big problem is that I identify a lot with the results. I know it’s not good or healthy, but it’s hard to avoid when you’ve really been doing something your whole life and put your all into it.

The pernicious impact of building self-esteem solely through the prism of results is mentioned by many athletes, at various stages of their careers. When we spoke a little over a year ago, you seemed to have cut it off.

It is now better in this respect than it was before at its worst. I know there are other things that are important too. But tennis is still my life and I can’t imagine not playing. It is definitely much harder to deal with a worse feeling in such a case.

Knee problems were so bad that you had no other option than to undergo surgery in mid-September?

There was an option not to have it, but that knee kept calling. So I would probably have more and more breaks. We decided that it would be better to do the surgery, come back after rehabilitation and have peace of mind.

You said recently that the knee itself is fine. But don’t you feel like you’re subconsciously saving them? This is often the case after a long break related to surgical intervention.

I certainly did in the first few months. The second match after the break was three sets on a hard court – the knee felt it strongly. But that’s normal. I think that in the first tournaments I subconsciously really protected my knee, I ran a little slower. I don’t feel that way now. I feel like everything is back to normal in that regard.

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Let’s go back to the aforementioned conference after the first round match in Warsaw. You then said, that you are not mentally yourself on the court at all. Did such a sincere confession bring you some relief at that time?

I’m a very open person and sometimes I feel really stupid because I feel like I’m not going to help anyone.

But it’s not about helping someone. Has it helped you? Did you feel something changed?

I guess nothing. You can see how I feel on the court. I feel like I can’t camouflage it. All these emotions outside the court are transferred to the court. I can’t hide these things. I’m not going to complain. I’m just telling you honestly how it is, what I feel.

Are you able to compare your current state of mind with the one you mentioned before? Back then, there was crying in training and during games wondering why you even go out on the court.

I don’t know how to compare it exactly. Now I know for sure that I want to play tennis. I definitely want to do my best to play it as well as possible. But it’s hard.

Before, there was a time when you didn’t enjoy tennis…

… not enjoyed, that’s for sure. Then I tried taking a break. I couldn’t handle it at all.

Have you considered taking another break now?

I don’t think it would be good for me at this point and I wouldn’t want to do it. Just like I jokingly said at a conference in Warsaw that maybe someone could give me a hint… Because everyone is asking what needs to be done, and I don’t know anymore. I’ve tried so many different ideas, and so far, no breakthrough.

What were some examples of these ideas? Is it more about mental solutions or purely tennis issues?

Generally about everything. I don’t know how to go about it anymore. I don’t know why I have such huge waves – on one hand I’m very aware and I feel very good, and then all of a sudden it’s like this. I don’t know what it comes from. I’m trying to find some solution.

You said at the beginning that everything had a little bit to do with the current situation. So it wasn’t just about getting back in shape after surgery?

Yes, but everyone has their problems.

Some tennis players in a difficult moment are looking for new stimuli, e.g. by adding a new person to the staff or short-term consultations.

I have been working with Jolanta Rusin, a physical preparation coach, for several weeks (she was in the training staff of Iga Świątek in the past – ed.).

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And how long have you been training under the guidance of Jaroslav Machovski?

Three years. I treat him like a family member because he was with me in all the worst moments so far. I could always count on him and I trust him a lot. This is one of two or three people who know almost everything about me. We understand each other very well.

Is it giving you more space now, or is it more inviting you to talk all the time?

He helps me as best he can. Together we wonder what else we can do to make it a little better.

A moment ago you said, “I know for sure that I want to play tennis.” Was there a moment recently when you thought it might not be real anymore?

I was thinking that I might not make it. And I’ve always dreamed of being a tennis player. It’s a specific life, but I like it a lot. And I had such thoughts that it might not work out for me and, to be honest, I was a little scared. I had a thousand thoughts in my head. I wondered if I could lead a more normal life. The option of forcibly quitting tennis terrified me. I am aware that this is not good. All this, however, convinced me that I definitely want to continue playing. That’s why I don’t want this break.

What is now a prerequisite for you to continue playing? Adequate health? Financial abilities? A specific sporting level?

I have dreams, but now thinking about them would make me feel worse. I prefer the step-by-step method. Of course, it’s also important for me to live from it.

Could this be a problem soon?

Not yet, but if the results don’t go my way, which will affect the ranking, then that’s also a possibility. So far it’s ok. I have a lot of help.

No worries about financial security during matches?

I haven’t thought about it yet. First of all, this little girl appeared in my mind who always dreamed of being a tennis player and the fear that it might not work out. And I was sorry. I know it’s normal for things like this to happen, but it’s just sad.

Was this girl dreaming of winning any particular tournament?

There wasn’t one. Those were the days of rivalry between Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. I loved watching them and then when I went out on the court I would make a braid and wave it on serve like Azarenka (smile).

A dream match with her is still real. He’s the only one still playing.

She wasn’t my idol. The level and style of these three just inspired me. Out of that group, I was rooting for Sharapova more.

And in the male rate?

Roger Federer.

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A year ago, you made your debut in the Grand Slam main draw and climbed up the rankings. In recent months your ratings have deteriorated quite a bit and you are returning to lower ranked tournaments. This is a common way to rebuild, but it can still be difficult to accept.

Yes, but on the other hand – should I lie to myself? You have to go down to that lower level and do what can help. Either way, you have to accept it.

Have you already done it?

I think it’s getting better. Not great yet, but I’m on my way.

On the occasion of the tournament in Warsaw, I saw a lot of words of support for you in social media.

I saw various messages and replied to them a little. I got a lot of support and I wondered what I was doing that I always got such support.

Maybe just for honesty and openness?

I am very pleased. And I really appreciate it. I got a few messages like this from people who felt a bit lonely and opened up a bit.

And has there been any athlete or other person who, by sharing their own story of struggling with difficulties in public, helped you deal with yours?

I’ve heard different stories, but I have the impression that everyone approaches such issues a little differently, experiences it differently and everyone has their own way of dealing with it.

Can’t you learn from someone else’s experience here?

Maybe it will. I don’t know. But in my case, when I was in such a deep hole, nothing would help me. In fact, it would piss me off even more if someone told me stories like that. Like I said, everyone reacts differently.

You said recently that you are sorry that you have so much support from others, and yet there is no effect in terms of victories. Isn’t it a bit like you decided that you have to repay this support and paradoxically it makes the game even more difficult for you now?

It hardly makes it difficult. Of course, I am even more sorry that I lost, because recently, for example, many more people supported me than usual. I always get great support and I’m always surprised why.

You have been working with a psychologist for some time. Now, the organizers of some WTA tournaments also provide such assistance.

From what I understood, the point is that if a player is unable to contact her psychologist, she can contact this lady. Ask for something, this lady can advise you on an ad hoc basis. I think it’s a nice solution.

In the locker room during the competition, you can also see satisfaction with this idea?

We don’t talk about it in the dressing room, but I think it’s natural now. I feel like everyone is already using it. Demanding times, demanding sport.

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