Former World No. 1 Marcelo Rios recently weighed in on the conversation about mental health in tennis, especially in the context of Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Mardy Fish. The Chilean was of the opinion that struggles with depression are more prevalent among women's players, bringing up incidents with Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty to prove his point.
Osaka and Barty are two of the most high-profile names on the WTA tour to have taken a break from the sport. The Japanese stayed away from the game for extended periods last year, taking her first break after the controversy at Roland Garros. Following a brief return to action at the Olympics, Naomi Osaka once again took a hiatus after the US Open to recover and reset herself mentally.
The Australian, meanwhile, put her tennis career on hold in 2015 and decided to try her hand at cricket, taking part in the Women's Big Bash League. After making a comeback in earnest in 2017, the former World No. 1 ended up winning three Grand Slams, including the most recent Australian Open in 2022.
Surprisingly, however, the 25-year-old announced her retirement only a couple of months after the title run, noting that she had achieved everything she had set out to accomplish. In her retirement announcement, Barty also asserted that she did not have the "emotional want" to challenge herself at the top level anymore.
Speaking to Chilean daily newspaper La Tercera, Marcelo Rios opined that he had his own struggles with anxiety back in his playing days. Rios noted solemnly that he had experiences with people who suffered from depression without even realizing it.
The 46-year-old touched on Barty's retirement announcement, stating that he could not personally understand the reasons she gave. In both her case as well as Naomi Osaka's, Rios wondered if it was because modern-day players are not equipped to handle the pressure that comes with being a professional tennis player.
"More than anguish, it was anxiety that happened to me. I have seen people with depression who do not show that they are depressed and kill themselves. The one who made the Joker (Heath Ledger) had everything, he was married [but] he killed himself," Rios said. "In women's tennis, these issues have been seen more, with that of Naomi Osaka and [Ashleigh] Barty, who I don't know why she retired. They have pointed out that they cannot handle so much pressure."
Much like Naomi Osaka's fight with mental health, Marcelo Rios "still doesn't get" Mardy Fish's struggles either
Another prominent tennis player who has recently opened up about his struggles with mental health is Mardy Fish. Similar to Naomi Osaka, the American also revealed that he had been struggling with mental health issues for a long time.
His story was made into a documentary on Netflix called 'Untold: Breaking Point,' a movie Osaka also highly recommends. Marcelo Rios disclosed during the interview that he watched the documentary, but that he "still doesn't get" it.
The Chilean was of the opinion that the expectations on the former World No. 7 should have come from his own country, where anyone who wasn’t Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi or Andy Roddick, would have a hard time.
Furthermore, the former World No. 1 also wondered why Fish did not struggle during the 2004 Olympics, where he won the silver medal.
"And about depression, I saw the Fish documentary on Netflix and I still don't get it. I met him and never knew. Let him say that he had pressure from the United States. If he wasn't a Sampras, an Agassi or a Roddick, how do you compare? And it caught my attention that he did not name the Olympic Games, which was the most important achievement he had," Rios said.
But it should be noted that the American has acknowledged that his anxiety and depression only got worse after the 2010s, around the same time he experienced severe cardiac arrhythmia.