Netflix Breaking Point: “Every week you’re a loser.” The brutal world of tennis
One of the show’s stars, Nick Kyrgios, may not have watched it yet, while former world number one Andy Murray says he has no interest in watching it. But Netflix’s new on-the-fly documentary, “Break Point,” has nonetheless been making headlines since its release this month.
The documentary, which focuses on the next generation of tennis stars, is made by the team that produced the hit Netflix Formula 1 series ‘Drive to Survive’.
Its aim is to introduce the world to young talent in the sport, those who should emerge from the shadows of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (and, at the time of filming, Roger Federer and Serena Williams as they had not yet retired ) .
Tennis wants to win a new audience as it prepares for the sport’s new era, the one without its bankable stars, the generational talents who have become household names.
One way perhaps to achieve this goal is to have 10 cameras follow ATP and WTA players throughout the season and hope they make tennis exciting, glamorous and dramatic, like “Drive to Survive” did for F1.
It doesn’t quite succeed because tennis isn’t quite the traveling soap opera that F1 is. But talk of a “Break Point curse” that surfaced on social media this week perhaps adds a little something to the narrative after six of the stars featured in the first five episodes left the Australian Open in this year before the first weekend of the tournament, while three withdrew from the tournament injured.
Only Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 22, remains in the singles draw.
“I thought it was funny,” he said when asked by reporters about the so-called curse. “I don’t know; I don’t think it’s related.
“Maybe the players who lost maybe feel like it’s connected, somehow. I don’t think they do. I don’t think it’s related, anyway. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
In outlining the basics of how the games and settings work in the first episode, the show clearly has a certain type of audience in mind – an audience that doesn’t know much about sports.
Most of the players featured – Maria Sakkari, Taylor Fritz, Paula Badosa, Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud – have plenty of victories to earn before they become global stars, although they all have, at one point or another, been in the world. Top 10.
Arguably the show’s other cast members, Hugo Boss pin-up Matteo Berrettini and story-maker Ons Jabeur, are now better known, having reached the Grand Slam final last year.
The series opens with the biggest star of his call, Kyrgios, the Australian who has become accustomed to making headlines around the world, and not always because of the quality of his tennis.
The 27-year-old is described on the show as the most talented player of his generation, but he hasn’t won a major singles tournament, despite reaching the Wimbledon final last year.
He perhaps embodies the sport’s so-called next generation, talented yes, but not quite breaking through and in danger of being usurped by the next wave of players who come along.
The first episode provides a window into how Kyrgios struggled with the fame and expectations that surrounded him after his sensational victory over Nadal at Wimbledon when he was just 19 years old.
The Australian talks about the loneliness of the sport – how competing week in and week out, shuffling from hotel to hotel is not for him – and the drinking problem he had when he was older young.
“I just had to be kinder to myself, for my sanity. I could never be a player who played all year. I couldn’t do that,” he said.
He drank every night, he says, from his youth as a professional as his life “spinned out of control”, while his manager, Daniel Horsfall, says he would use a tracking app on his phone to track Kyrgios after his parties.
“I used to have your location on my phone and some mornings I would physically go and find out where you were, what hotel you were at, what house you were staying in before tournaments, before a game,” says Horsfall. . “It was hard.”
What becomes clear is that even for those who succeed – the protagonists may not be Grand Slam winners, but they are among the best in the world – tennis is a brutal sport.
This is a show that features the young elite of the sport, and most of them have struggled mentally at some point in their young lives.
It’s a lonely world and, as American Fritz says in the episode centered on his journey, “every week you’re a loser”, as only Nadal and Djokovic win the vast majority of tournaments they enter. For others, even those who are very, very good, defeat is common.
Spain’s Bedosa, once world number two, is incredibly honest when she talks about how sport affected her mental health, how the pressure to succeed, to win, to climb the ladder became too much for her.
“People were talking about me like I was the next big thing, the next Maria Sharapova. I was 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,” she reveals on the show, after speaking for the first time about her struggles in 2019.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it because they feel like they’re going to be weaker, but I think it’s totally the opposite. I struggle a lot mentally trying to find myself.
Greek player Sakkari tells how she couldn’t sleep for three days after losing a match point French Open semi-final to Barbora Krejcikova – “I told my coaches that I wanted to retire from tennis.”
Sakkari’s mother, a former tennis player herself, succinctly sums up the sport: “Tennis players don’t just lose to their opponents, they lose to themselves.”
It’s just a short, but poignant segment as Jabeur’s husband, who is also her fitness trainer for financial reasons – after a breakthrough season in 2022, it’s safe to assume these monetary issues don’t exist. more – asks his wife to have children.
The Tunisian, who last season became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam final, watches sadly as she talks about her desire to have children one day but, for now, her focus is on his career. The couple then embrace for a long hug.
The series emphasizes what tennis is, an individual sport. Sakkari says goodbye to her team and is driven to her match. No matter how big a player’s entourage is, he’s on the court alone, battling his opponent and his thoughts.
The shifts also seem relentless for those competing week after week. One tournament is ending, another is about to begin.
And partly because of that, and partly because of the focus and dedication required to win tournaments, players don’t seem to experience much of the world they constantly roam.
During the Australian Open, cameras show Berrettini and his then-girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic, who is also a professional tennis player, having dinner in their hotel room, watching movies on their bed via a laptop.
Outside is Melbourne, one of the best cities in the world, but their world is locked down; training grounds, gymnasium, hotel room.
Does watching “Break Point” make you envious of tennis players? Not really. Does it make you want to be part of their world? Not really. Does this make you wonder how such a lifestyle affects a person’s well-being? Certainly.