BRUSSELS (AP)Caroline Garcia says she had to deal with bulimia for a spell, triggered by losses and pain from a lingering foot injury that affected her daily life.

Now back to a career-high No.4 in the WTA rankings and in bright spirits, the 29-year-old Garcia opened up about her struggles in an interview with L’Equipe sports newspaper.

After several inconsistent years marred by doubts and injuries, Garcia took a break from tennis in March to nurse her foot. The pause brought dividends as the Frenchwoman enjoyed a tremendous second half of the 2022 season with titles at the WTA Finals, Cincinnati, Bad Homburg and Warsaw to go with her semifinal appearance at the U.S. Open.

Before that successful stretch Garcia said ”there have been many tears, many sleepless nights”.

Garcia – who first reached the No. 4 spot in Sept. 2018 – said she took refuge in food to compensate for the unease created by pain and defeat.

”You feel so empty, so sad, that you need to fill yourself up,” she said. ”It was the distress of not being able to do what I wanted to do on the court, not winning and suffering physically. Eating soothed me for a few minutes. We all know it doesn’t last but…it was an escape. It’s uncontrollable.”

Garcia said being alone in her hotel room while on the tour made things more difficult to handle. Speaking about her problems with family and friends helped her improve her relationship with food.

”Since I’ve been enjoying everything around tennis a little more and taking more time for myself, it happens less,” she said. ”And when it does happen, I accept it more and feel much less guilty about it. Allowing myself small pleasures on a more regular basis prevents me from having that craving for something too often. At one point, I didn’t allow myself much. It became too much.

”Now, if I have a craving for pizza for two days, I’ll just have my pizza and stop obsessing about it. I had a hard time accepting the fact that it wasn’t going to transform my body. I allow myself a little dessert every now and then instead of just thinking about it all week and eventually breaking down completely.”

Garcia became in November the second player from France to win the season-ending WTA Finals after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005. She is expected to compete at the Australian Open, the first major tournament of the season beginning Jan. 16 at Melbourne Park.

She said in an interview last month with the WTA website that winning a Grand Slam title is her big goal in 2023.

”Being healthy first, but winning a Slam is probably one of my goals and dreams since I was a little girl, and with the last couple of results, with the WTA Finals, with the semifinal at the US Open, made it obviously more concrete and something I can reach, something I can achieve,” she said.

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