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'Break Point' spotlights mental health struggles of Paula Badosa, Nick Kyrgios
Badosa, Kyrgios, and Maria Sakkari all open up about the emotional toll of competing among the tennis elite in the forthcoming Netflix docuseries, which releases its first five episodes on Friday.
Published Jan 11, 2023
WATCH: Naomi Osaka was among the first elite athletes to bring mental health to a global stage in 2021.
NaomI Osaka put the athlete-mental health conversation on a global stage in 2021, shining a light on the struggles shared by her fellow players as documented by Break Point, the forthcoming Netflix docuseries.
Before the first five episodes drop on Friday, catch up with three equally moving stories of top tennis stars dealing with the emotional toll of moving up the rankings and dealing with the pressures that come with being an elite athlete.
Kyrgios has been open about his struggles with mental health, sharing a harrowing social media post that revealed previous episodes of self-harm.
“The first four, five years of my career, it was just chaotic,” Kyrgios explains in Break Point as girlfriend Costeen Hatzi and manager Daniel Horsfall (aka Horse) look on. “When Horse was on tour with me, when he was basically looking after me. He could see my mental well-being declining every week. My life was kind of spiraling out of control, drinking every single night.”
“I used to have your location on my phone, and on some mornings, I’d have to physically go and find where you were, what hotel you were at, whose house you were staying at, before tournaments and before a match,” Horsfall added.
The Aussie, who dealt with great expectations and relentless criticism in the eight years since bursting onto the Grand Slam stage when he upset Rafael Nadal at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, credits a better work-life balance with his improved emotional state. Kyrgios now opts to play a limited schedule that allows him to spend time at home.
“I was like, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ I just had to be kinder to myself,” said Kyrgios. “For my mental health, I could never be a player that played all year round. I couldn’t do it.”
The Greek pioneer has dealt with her own share of expectations as she carries on the proverbial family business; Sakkari’s mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou was a Top 50 player in the late 80s.
Sakkari and coach Tom Hill speak at length of the late-stage jitters that have led to multiple semifinal defeats, including twice at Grand Slams in 2021.
“I was struggling because I could see the finish line, but then I couldn’t win the match,” she said “My mind would go so far that I couldn’t close it out. I was too excited. I was nearly there, but not there at the same time.”
The nadir came when she lost a Roland Garros semifinal from match point up to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova, leading Sakkari to consider drastic measures.
“I just didn’t know how to handle that situation,” she sighs. “I couldn’t sleep for three days. I was just lying in bed and trying to sleep, but I was so nervous and so sad. It was tough for me to handle, and I told my coaches that I want to retire from tennis.
“I retired for four days. I was on a Greek island, and I said, ‘Okay, when can we start practicing again? I’m coming back from retirement.’ That’s what we’ve been calling it.”
Badosa was arguably the first top-flight tennis player to speak out about struggles with anxiety and depression, sharing a video documenting her mental health struggles in the summer of 2019.
“I’ve been struggling for years with a lot of depression,” she asserts on Break Point.
“People were talking about me like I was the next big thing, the next Maria Sharapova. I felt like, ‘Wow, now I have to be a legend. Maybe next year, I have to be a Top 10 player.’ So, for me, it was a lot of pressure.”
That pressure kept Badosa confined to the tennis wilderness in the years following her junior Grand Slam victory at Roland Garros 2015; it wasn’t until she opened up about mental health that her ranking began to rise.
“It was very tough for me because I didn’t know what to do in that moment. Life didn’t have a lot of sense because ever since I was seven years old, my dream was to be a professional tennis player. It was very bad. I didn’t want to go on a tennis court. I started to try to find solutions to work on it, with mental health professionals.
The Spaniard went on to enjoy a breakthrough 2021 season, culminating with a first WTA 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open.
“I’ve been very open in the press and everywhere about my mental health struggles because even the best athlete in the world can feel this. I’m in a position right now that if I can talk, I can help other people.”
“A lot of people don’t talk about it because they feel they’re going to be weaker, but I think it’s totally the opposite. I’m fighting a lot mentally to try and find myself again.”
Stream the first five episodes Break Point on Netflix January 13, and click here to read the official Baseline review of the docuseries.