One factor Break Point makes clear from the beginning is that there’s typically little or no glory to be present in tennis. “You get used to losing,” says Taylor Fritz, who is likely one of the 10 gamers featured within the first 5 episodes of the brand new Netflix documentary, produced by the group behind its wildly profitable F1 predecessorDrive to Survive. “Only one player can win every week,” he provides, and whereas Break Point is there to seize these moments, it’s within the examination of tennis as a brutal and at occasions lonely world that makes the primary half of its debut season a compelling watch.
These are nonetheless early days for the present, however its tentative first steps are partaking sufficient and in moments get away into the stride that Drive to Survive captured fairly masterfully in recent times. Despite some preliminary criticism, there’s sufficient right here for ardent tennis followers, in addition to the potential new viewers Break Point is keen to hit. The nature of tennis and its intense bodily and psychological calls for serves because the body for a lot of the drama, which is designed to be delivered to life by its characters – a lot of whom could also be unfamiliar in the event you solely watch a number of days of Wimbledon per 12 months.
There is a technique in place right here. Last season was one of the crucial vital and eventful years in tennis historical past however Break Point typically finds itself in the direction of the outer rim of the motion, regaling within the sub-plots of the season. The main tennis tales of 2022 – Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia, Rafael Nadal’s gorgeous grand slam victories in Melbourne and Roland Garros, and the ultimate matches within the legendary careers of Serena Williams and Roger Federer – should not the main target.
Instead, it’s a “new generation” of gamers who’re featured, those that wish to fill the void that can ultimately be left behind by among the sport’s greatest-ever champions. Break Point clearly follows a quick to encourage the personalities and tales of the usually ignored subsequent wave of gamers to come back out, which is probably why the ATP and WTA excursions, in addition to the grand slam tournaments, have been so accommodating to allow its behind-the-scenes entry. As Wimbledon brazenly admitted final July, most followers arriving by means of the gates on the All England Club “hadn’t heard of most of the players”.
The hope is that this begins to alter because the present develops and the gamers who’re featured undergo the ups and downs, each on the display screen in addition to in actual time on the courtroom. Break Point succeeds in introducing these gamers and their motivations, sacrifices and fears. Indeed, it’s within the examine of the psychological pressures of tennis the place the present finds its mark.
We choose up at varied factors through the relentless grind of the season, concentrating on the key tournaments the place gamers trying to take the following step on their careers could make the largest impression. After the documentary opens on Nick Kyrgios, Ajla Tomljanovic and Matteo Berrettini are featured in Australia, with Fritz and Maria Sakkari adopted at Indian Wells. As the season strikes to clay, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur are the main target on the Madrid Open earlier than Casper Ruud and Felix Auger-Aliassime are highlighted at Roland Garros for the second main of the 12 months.
Of all of them, it’s maybe the Spaniard Badosa who emerges with essentially the most fascinating storyline. Arriving at her house Madrid Open because the match favorite, ranked second on this planet, her frank and sincere dialogue of her struggles with anxiousness and despair spotlight the suffocating strain that expectation can have on particular person athletes. Badosa’s unravelling within the second-round defeat to Simona Halep confirmed how uncovered gamers could be when matches begin to slip away and damaging ideas take maintain.
These moments, which happen to a number of gamers all through the primary 5 episodes, are brutal to look at however make for fascinating and at occasions stunning viewing. There isn’t any hiding place, however the entry and interviews with gamers assist to offer context and perception into their psychological state when matches start to slip uncontrolled. Players make references to “demons” and the “devil”, influencing their thoughts and each shot. This is what makes tennis so demanding; it’s the most intense bodily and psychological battle and drags gamers to the depths of their feelings. Break Point permits these moments to unfold, and sometimes at intimate proximity.
By far essentially the most recognisable title within the documentary’s first season, there’s additionally context added to the complicated character of Kyrgios supplied by family and friends, who recall a few of his darkest days. Kyrgios’s supervisor, Daniel Horsfall, remembers the peak of his consuming drawback and having to trace him down on the morning of a match. His mom factors to a group of smashed rackets at Kyrgios’s childhood house in Canberra, proof of when his anger and temperament began to take over his expertise.
There will undoubtedly be followers who’re left disenchanted by what just isn’t talked about. Although he’s not interviewed, Nadal seems at varied factors all through the primary 5 episodes, floating into shot like an end-of-level boss in a online game, however his presence nonetheless manages so as to add a way of mystique that clearly hangs over the youthful gamers. Iga Swiatek won’t be featured till the second half of Break Point is aired forward of Wimbledon in June, masking the second half of the season. There is loads showcased to go away followers wanting extra, nonetheless.
This can also be a course of. Drive to Survive was not a right away hit when it launched in 2019 and didn’t result in a brand new wave of recognition for F1 in a single day. Now renewed for a fifth and sixth season, it gained traction as drivers have been revisited every season, including additional depth to their character as they progressed or fell by means of the ranks. Break Point is aware of this, which is why it was prepared to solely present a fleeting have a look at the 36-year-old Nadal and 41-year-old Williams in favour of the youthful technology. With an extra 5 episodes but to come back, the query is: will viewers stick round for the journey?