American tennis player Evan King, 28, admits as a black man he sometimes fell safer when he is outside his country and playing in Europe. "I’m one of the only American players who prefers to play outside of America. I feel safer walking down the street in Kazakhstan or Bosnia than some of the places I travel to in my own country," King said in his contribution post for Behind The Racquet.
King, who turned professional in 2013, revealed he was in a really dark place in 2015 and he was going through the darkest period of his life. "Early 2015 was a pretty dark time for me. I had decided to quit professional tennis, get out of that bubble and enter the real world.
With that lifestyle change came more time to live, reflect and consume everything outside of the professional tennis world. Around that time, there were a few high profile race-based killings in the United States. The murder that received the most publicity at the time was Trayvon Martin.
There were a lot of others that didn’t grab mainstream media’s attention but these stories kept repeating themselves with no real change," King said. "As these murders kept occurring, and I was no longer solely consumed with that fuzzy yellow ball, I came to the realization that any one of those killings could have been me.
I could have been that kid walking back from 7/11 wearing a hoodie and getting Skittles or more recently, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery going for a run in a white neighborhood before getting shot. Those realizations took me to a dark place.
I was 22 and I was starting to think about what I was leaving behind in the world if my life ended unexpectedly. I thought I wanted a kid, strictly to leave something behind if I died. To make sure my family lineage didn’t end with me."
The thoughts of death crossed Evan King's mind many times
At the time, King was 23 and he was hoping to make it to 25 and the rest he would consider a "borrowed time." Fortunately, the American's situation got better and he eventually returned to professional tennis.
"I felt lucky to be alive. I started taking walks in the cemetery multiple times a week. I would look at the tombstones and get emotional if the deceased were younger than me. Not all of these deaths were racially charged, but I kept going on these walks for the perspective and appreciation that I had made it to see 23 when I knew some others didn’t live a full life.
I felt a shot clock on my life, way sooner than normal. My goal was to make it to 25 and the rest I considered borrowed time. "These feelings lasted a few months. Over time, I found ways to cope with my thoughts and to numb that outlook I had on life.
I had a great crew of people that kept me from walking through the damn cemetary. I went back on tour." Evan King, now ranked at No. 407 in the world, achieved his career-high ranking of No. 185 in 2018.
• Evan King about betting: 'I get extra-negative comments because I’m black'