Netflix tennis docuseries ‘Break Point’ short on surprises
Less than 10 minutes into the first episode of “Break Point,” the Netflix docuseries about professional tennis that launches Friday, Nick Kyrgios is seen practicing before last year’s Australian Open and is heard contemplating aloud whether he ever will appear again at the tournament.
“I don’t know if this is going to be the last time,” Kyrgios says. “Nothing good lasts forever, though, yeah?”
That captures the vibe around tennis lately, what with the retirements of Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Ash Barty all arriving in 2022. It also helps open a window onto the tumult and pressure — a word invoked repeatedly during the series’ first five episodes — that are constant factors for the WTA and ATP athletes who will be back on the Grand Slam stage when plays begins at Melbourne Park on Monday (Sunday night EST).
This is not the first time Kyrgios, who wound up reaching his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in July, has voiced questions about his future and, indeed, there are not a ton of outright surprises for those who follow the sport closely. That said, there are occasional unexpected moments during the first half of Season 1’s 10 episodes (the rest are scheduled for release in June), such as when Kyrgios discusses his drinking habit with his manager or when Maria Sakkari says in Episode 3 that she “retired for four days” after blowing a match point and losing in the 2021 French Open semifinals.
“Break Point” is, in some ways, an advertisement for tennis, introducing casual fans — or folks who really haven’t been fans at all — to some of the on-court characters, laying out basic rules and formats, and offering limited recaps on last season’s events.
There is not an effort to completely cover what went on in the sport. One example of something only briefly addressed: an unvaccinated Novak Djokovic’s will-he-or-won’t-he-play-in-Australia saga that fascinated the world for more than a week. Barty’s historic championship at the Australian Open and stunning retirement soon after are left unexplored.
“At the end of the day, the show is about the human condition, and what this particular sport does to the human condition and how people respond to being in this place and this time. And it’s very relatable,” said executive producer James Gay-Rees, who also is one of the people behind “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.”
“They’re human beings that potentially we can all relate to,” Gay-Rees said in a video interview. “If that is the case, then anybody can watch it and find something.”
There is a mix of recent and archival footage. There are interviews with coaches, agents, family members, significant others, journalists and former players such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova.
The emphasis is on current players’ tales and travails, although do not expect a ton of gossip or infighting. There are tears. There is frankness, particularly in the “confessional”-style, look-straight-into-the-camera sessions so popular on reality TV.
Paula Badosa, a Spaniard once ranked No. 2, talks in Episode 4 about dealing with depression. Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked American man, gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look in Episode 3 at a player dealing with an injury before the biggest match of his career. Ajla Tomljanovic, an Australian player who beat Williams at the U.S. Open in the 23-time major champion’s final match, offers insight into the grind of the job.
“If you’re not winning the event, you’re a loser every week,” says Tomljanovic, whose since-ended relationship with 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini occupies much of Episode 2. “That’s why I think tennis is really brutal.”
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