Katie Swan reveals how she overcame her mental health struggles ahead of the grass court season
British number five Katie Swan says she has overcome her struggles with confidence and motivation ahead of the upcoming grass court season.
Swan, 20, opened up about her issues after losing in the final round of qualifying for the French Open in May.
She revealed she had been struggling for up eight months with her confidence on and off the court and made public her decision to consult a psychiatrist on social media.
Speaking to Sportswomen, Swan said the moment she realised it was an issue that needed addressing came soon after Great Britain’s memorable Fed Cup win over Kazakhstan in April, which earned them promotion to World Group II.
“I love competing, I’m really competitive. That’s one of the things I lost over the last few months – my competitive spirit and the fighter that I have in me,” she said.
“When I realised those were the main reasons I do this, I had to change. I needed to get that back.
“It was the week before the Fed Cup tie at the Copper Box. I said to my mum on the phone: ‘I don’t think I should go, I really don’t think I deserve to be there, I don’t feel like I am ready to be part of this team’.
“She really pushed me to go and I was really glad that I did because it was an amazing experience. But still, within myself, after that I did not feel great. I actually went back to America for a week when I was supposed to start the clay season earlier.
“I went back home because I felt I needed a mental break from tennis. I didn’t touch my rackets for a week.”
Swan says a number of factors led to her downturn in confidence, which resulted in her losing motivation to compete in the sport she loves.
“It was a combination of things,” she explained.
“I said to my mum on the phone ‘I don’t think I should go, I really don’t think I deserve to be there, I don’t feel like I am ready to be part of this team’.”
Swan ahead of GB’s Fed Cup tie in April
“For a few tournaments I felt like my nerves were overwhelming. It was really hard to go out and play because I really could not focus on the match.
“I was focusing too much on external things. I would literally be 10 minutes into a practice and become so negative. I would get so down on myself when nothing had really happened.
“I was just struggling to find the reason why I was doing this.”
Her way out of that spiral was to stop concerning herself with external factors which are out of her control. Swan says the “biggest change” she has made is simply concentrating on herself.
“I was worrying too much about what other people thought,” she said. Disappointing my parents, my coaches, everyone.
“I didn’t think about myself at all. I felt like less of a person when I lost matches, not just less of a tennis player.
“That was because I was focusing on others. The biggest change has been concentrating on myself, doing things for me and making myself proud – a much more positive mindset.”
Swan received widespread support from her fan base and the wider tennis community after she went public with her struggles.
Well done, Katie. Important words eloquently expressed- hope you‘re okay🙏🏻
She says she was surprised by some of her fellow professionals who thanked her for shining a previously unseen spotlight on mental health in the sport.
“A lot more [players] than I thought have messaged me saying: ‘thank you for highlighting this because it was really relatable’,” she revealed.
“One player messaged me to say: ‘you’ve written down everything that I am feeling, thank you so much for doing this’.
“It’s nice to know it’s not just me. Other players are going through the same thing. It’s really lonely being on tour.”
Swan’s focus now turns towards the upcoming grass court season which concludes at Wimbledon in July – where she is likely to receive a wildcard into the main draw.
“I’m really excited. A few months ago I was not even sure that I wanted to play the grass court season.”
“It’s a lot of pressure for British players, with all the media, crowds and wildcards.
“It’s completely changed now. I am so excited and I am not putting any pressure on myself in terms of results.
“I know I have the game to do well. If I have a good mindset then I know good things will happen.”
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