A Quick TV Review
With tennis on the mind after a great weekend of the U.S. Open, I finally got a chance to dive into Netflix's new "Untold" documentary, Breaking Point, focusing on the impact of anxiety on the career of U.S. tennis star - and Athens 2004 silver medalist - Mardy Fish.
"Untold" isn't quite right a moniker for Fish's story - as he publicly discussed his anxiety disorder diagnosis back in 2014 - but this documentary does frame his mental health struggles within the context of the pressure of carrying the U.S. mantle of men's tennis.
It's also the first I've seen the subject of his rivalry / friendship with Andy Roddick explored to this depth. Rising together at the famed Saddlebrook Academy, the two were groomed to be the next generation of star U.S. men in tennis in the early 2000s. But Fish quickly falls under Roddick's shadow. His close friend, as the more naturally determined and focused player, rises steadily in the rankings. Of a 2003 Cincinnati match in which Fish lost two championship points and retrospectively define the two's immediate futures, Fish offers, "it still hurts".
Compounding the prospect of success in the mid-2000s was the rise of the soon-to-be greatest ever trio: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. Federer is even referred to in Breaking Point as "the U.S. bubble buster", as his rise thwarted Fish, Roddick, and any other U.S. man's ambitions.
Despite a resurgence of confidence after a reinvigorated training regimen that leads to a career-high ranking of seventh, the wheels fall off in 2012. Facing a too-packed early season schedule, Fish struggles and is hit with a tachycardia diagnosis...leading to another diagnosis of severe anxiety disorder. That severity culminates with a withdrawal from the 2012 U.S. Open, ahead of a much-hyped 4th round match against Federer.
Fueled by Fish's own words, Breaking Point is an interesting, sympathetic look at one athlete's struggle to find drive, coupled with an expectation of success. Certainly a compelling look at someone who, as a casual tennis fan, I never paid much attention to - for all the reasons that swirled around him: not breaking through amongst the stranglehold Roddick and the "Big Three" had on the sport. Breaking Point is also a testament of wonder for the rarity of athlete that can come out unscathed from elite competition. Even Roddick refers to a level of trauma association to this day, with certain foods as triggers.
While we may not get deep on his "troublesome thoughts" as he calls them during the depth of his affliction, Fish's openness in sitting down with this "Untold" production is welcoming. Any dialogue that opens acceptance on the sensitivity of mental health awareness is needed.
As Fish says, "Talking about what I was feeling made me feel better".