British Tennis Player Naomi Cavaday Returns To Pro Tour After Acing Bulimia, Depression

By McCarton Ackerman 11/03/14

The once highly-touted player is mounting a comeback after taking hold of her disease.

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Naomi Cavaday was touted as one of the most promising young players on the pro tennis tour back in 2007, but nearly lost it all to bulimia and depression. Nearly four years after retiring from the sport, she has successfully beaten her eating disorder and is now doing the same to her opponents in a comeback attempt to the sport.

Cavaday, now 25, returned to the tour last month and has already won two small ITF Pro Circuit events. In the earlier part of her career, she was a highly-touted teenager who competed against Venus Williams on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2008 and held match points against former world No. 1 Martina Hingis, the previous year. But her biggest battle was away from the public eye, as Cavaday admitted that she would regularly vomit up meals in her hotel room. Despite her hectic training and playing schedule, she once subsisted on coffee and pineapple for a three-month period.

“I’ve had issues off and on with food since I was about 12. At about 19 or 20, it started getting quite bad. I was effectively getting by on two meals per day despite the calories I was burning. There were times I was too heavy, others when I’d get too thin,” she told the Daily Mail. “People underestimate how tough and competitive tennis is. Virtually everyone loses every week they play, and when you are depressed that is tough to handle. The eating and depression went together.”

After retiring from the sport in 2011, Cavaday became an ambassador for the eating disorder charity BEAT and took up a coaching job in the UK. But after getting her mental and physical issues under control, she began to consider a return to the pro tour. Cavaday admits that she is still “very short of match play,” but believes that her best tennis-playing is still to come.

“I still have to be careful about my eating, but everything is under control and my confidence is very high,” she said. “I’m sure I can get back to where my ranking was pretty quickly and go on from there, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. I want to show that young people can get through things like depression and bulimia. It’s not a life sentence.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.