Anyone who follows professional tennis, even with moderate diligence, already knows the basics of what happened last year. “Break Point,” the Netflix series available Friday, fills in some of the gaps behind those naked results — the hows and whys. What happens in the brains of, say, Taylor Fritz or Ajla Tomljanovic or Paula Badosa when they are under duress?
“It’s such a mind game,” said Break Point showrunner Kari Lia. “I would not have appreciated that. And the difference between who wins and who loses is so often about what’s going on in their heads. I found that fascinating.
“And when you watch the show, we really explore that — what’s going on mentally.”
The interviews generally offer a much more honest assessment of players’ thoughts than we’re used to seeing in post-game press conferences. We see them off the field, celebrating victory, struggling with defeat, eating meals with their families, discussing strategy with their coaches, getting insight from their managers. Combined with play-by-play commentary and observations primarily from Chris Evert, Paul Annacone, Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick, Box to Box Films weaves a joyful, colorful story.
This series is the proven formula of sports coverage: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. This will be more of a revelation to the casual fan, who is unfamiliar with the difficulty of the sport.
After binging the five episodes as part of the initial release, here’s what we learned…
Episode 1: The Maverick
Kyrgios the bad boy… or not?
Nick Kyrgios has a reputation as the ‘bad boy’ of men’s tennis and the show relives an outburst during his match against Daniil Medvedev at last year’s Australian Open. But what we learn in the first episode of Break Point reveals that the Australian is relaxed off the pitch, choosing to spend his time with a tight circle of family and friends, enjoying dinners and fun games like everyone else. “He’s not as crazy as everyone thinks he is,” said Kyrgios’ girlfriend Costeen Hatzi.
The pivot point
Kyrgios’ Wimbledon attack on Rafael Nadal in 2014 was not only a turning point in Kyrgios’ career, but also in his life. The 19-year-old Australian instantly transforms from a largely anonymous teenager on the rise to a player who is directly in the limelight. Old footage shows swarms of fans waiting for him on his return to Canberra. In retrospect, we learn from family members and manager, Daniel Horsfall, that his life changed dramatically at that point — much for a teen to comprehend: “He was always angry,” said his mother, Norlaila Kyrgios. Kyrgios, his relatives and tell how life changed after that moment.
Thanasi Kokkinakis is the Robin from Kyrgios’ Batman. On the field, the two are clearly relaxed in the early stages of the Australian Open, seemingly focused on entertaining the boisterous Melbourne crowd. Off the field, we find, they may be even closer, attached at the hip, proving to be an asset on the field. As the Australian Open progressed, the close friends realized they had a chance to make their dream come true. They finished the job by taking their first Grand Slam trophy to the delight of the fans.
Episode 2: Take the Crown
The pros are just like us, well, mostly
The life of a professional tennis player is often portrayed as glamorous, with the athletes competing on the biggest stages in the world for thousands – and millions around the world – hungry to watch them play. But we’re reminded that they’re not that different from us — they’re just really good at tennis. In can be easily forgotten when you see them on television or from the public eye, but tennis players are people. Matteo Berrettini and Ajla Tomljanovic, who were a couple last year, took the Netflix crew to their hotel room, with clothes and the like scattered around the room. Instead of sitting around talking about tennis, they discussed what series or movie they would watch on a computer. Also featured in the episode was the emotional side of the sport. As much joy as wins bring, losses sting just as much.
Rafa ‘like a god’
Rafael Nadal and his legendary rivals are portrayed as tennis superheroes. Kyrgios even said of Nadal in the episode, “He’s like a god. As the new generation continues its pursuit to reach the pinnacle of the sport, we can clearly see that the hurdles facing them are not only physical, but also mental. A player like Berrettini has the means to beat anyone in the world. But will he be able to give his best long enough to take down the best players in history and make his own mark on the sport? In the Australian Open semifinals, by the time he jumps into shape, he is two sets down. There is no room for error.
‘You have to be mean’
Tomljanovic explained in this episode that she dreamed of winning a Grand Slam since she was seven. The Australian has worked hard all her life to pursue that goal and has shown clear talent. But former player Chris Evert, who has known her for years, makes a point about Tomljanovic in the episode: “You are too nice. You have to be a bit bitchy there sometimes. You must be mean.” It’s not enough to be a talented player. It takes a certain mental determination and a willingness to push boundaries to get to the top.
Episode 3: California Dreaming
Fritz doesn’t want to back down
This one is exclusively about Indian Wells, one of the biggest events on the calendar. Fritz reveals that working closely with his father, Guy, his only coach before turning pro, “caused friction”. But “in the end, he knew I’d be thankful for it — and I am.” Paul Annacone, one of Taylor Fritz’s coaches who previously worked with Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, ominously foreshadows the episode’s end, when he says, “Taylor Fritz is one of the strongest, most strong-willed players I’ve ever had. . That’s probably his biggest asset — it’s also probably his biggest liability.”
Did we mention Fritz’s competitive spirit?
After Fritz sustains an ankle injury in training for the final, there are tough discussions with his team whether he should play. Guy, Annacone and Taylor’s father, strongly pleads that he should back out, rather than take a narcotic shot and risk a career-threatening injury. We’re starting to see what a competitor Fritz is. He insists on doing everything he can to play the most important game of his life. In the end, he plays – and beats Rafael Nadal, ending his 20-0 run at the start of the year. For Fritz it was his first TBEN Masters 1000 title.
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Sakkari was not lacking in her caffeine intake
Meanwhile, Maria Sakkari reveals how devastating her 2021 Roland Garros semifinal loss to Barbora Krejcikova was: “I didn’t know how to handle it. I couldn’t sleep for three days. I told my coaches I wanted to quit tennis. I was retired for four days.” In another sequence, she reveals another shocker. In her sixth espresso of the day, she admits to drinking more coffee than any other WTA player. And there’s this from friend Ajla Tomljanovic, about one of the most physically imposing players: “On the pitch, she’s so intense. Off the field she is a teddy bear.”
Episode 4: Great Expectations
Badosa tells it like it is
The WTA is featured exclusively in this look at the WTA Madrid 1000. Paula Badosa is, as always, an open book, but her sound bites are extremely gripping. “This sport is a drug,” she said. “It’s super addictive. The wins and the feeling you get, the adrenaline it gives you – that’s what you chase all the time. The defending champion of Madrid lost a set 4-0
Simona Halep added in her home tournament: ‘I just want to leave the field. I have so many negative voices in my head, “You’re a bad player, you can’t do this.” It is very difficult to turn it off.”
Jabeur rises quickly in mainstream conversation
Our Jabeur from Tunisia has made all kinds of history, but we are starting to see how difficult it was to achieve this. For example, it was a risk when her husband, Karim Kamoun, became her fitness trainer in 2017 or when Issam Jellali became her coach. They are both Tunisians, like Jabeur himself, far removed from the mainstream tennis world. There is great banter between Us and her husband about how to properly throw a medicine ball.
Badosa needed help off the field
After winning the junior title at Roland Garros in 2017, Badosa suffered from depression and sought professional help. “I’m living a dream,” said Badosa, “but at the same time it’s not easy to deal with all the expectations and all the pressure.” Badosa had a hard time on the WTA Tour as a young player, but her ranking slowly rose. She dove into the Top 100 in 2019 and then jumped from number 70 in 2020 to a year-end number 8 in 2021. She was only 23 years old. “A lot of people don’t talk about it,” she said, “because they think they’re going to get weaker. But I think it’s totally the opposite.”
Episode 5: King of Clay
Felix an old prodigy on the rise
Most of the tennis world was introduced to Felix Auger-Aliassime when he won an ATP Challenger Tour match at age 14. His mother, Marie Auger, said she cried when her son traveled alone by plane to a tournament for the first time at 9 a.m. Now that he’s been in the spotlight for so many years, it’s remarkable how humble Auger-Aliassime remains. The Canadian said in the episode that he wants to hear things he doesn’t want to hear in order to continue his tennis evolution. That has paid off for the rising star.
Roddick has a lot of praise for Ruud
Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick isn’t one to exaggerate, so when the American praised Casper Ruud, it’s worth paying attention to. “I love Casper Ruud. He’s one of those people who hasn’t gotten enough hype,” Roddick said of the eventual Roland Garros finalist. “He’s not the person who draws attention to himself. He is not a self-promoter.” Casper’s father, former world No. 39 Christian Ruud, revealed that his son had a Nadal poster in his room as a child. While training at Movistar’s Rafa Nadal Academy, Ruud benefited from training with the Spaniard and plenty of advice from the icon. Does the Norwegian have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of his idol?
What controversy about Uncle Toni?
How Auger-Aliassime handled the Uncle Toni controversy at Roland Garros last year was as impressive as the Canadian’s tennis. Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle, is part of the Canadian’s coaching team. But before their fourth round match, Uncle Toni did interviews to clarify who he was looking for in the match. “Honestly, I want my nephew to win. He is my cousin and more than a cousin to me,” he said. Uncle Toni was in a neutral section and during the match he left the stadium because he found it difficult to watch. Many players questioned his loyalty, but Auger-Aliassime repeatedly explained that he understood the predicament and was more concerned about his best game, which helped push the 22-time Grand Slam winner to five sets.