Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Break Point serves the masses a view of the draining pro tennis tour

I love playing tennis and watching pro tennis, so it goes to follow that I would think Break Point - Season 1 on Netflix would be great. And it is pretty great, but I think people who don't follow tennis will find it even more eye opening. I already understand that life on the tour is pounding and often lonely, and matches take superhuman strength. I play two or three times a week and I would never win a game against a male or female player in the top 100. Neither would you. (Take it from Serena Williams' former coach Patrick Mouratoglou.) The gulf between amateur and pro in tennis is about as big as it gets.

Nick Kyrgios gets a helping hand
All that said, it is really cool getting to know the featured batch of players a little more. Nick Kyrgios offers the high point of the season, with episode 1 almost exclusively featuring his run at the January 2022 Australian Open. He receives loving support from his girlfriend, not an easy task for someone whose mental game has been the only thing to hold him back from being among the greats. You probably love or hate him, but I thought the show did a good job of helping his image by seeing things from his perspective, having fought a long battle upwards from being a little overweight boy growing up in Australia.

During the same tournament, Matteo Berretini and Ajla Tomljanovic are dating and working to help each other advance as far as possible. Their relationship eventually doesn't survive the stresses of the tour, but Tomljanovic has an exciting 2022, highlighted in the show by when she knocks off Serena Williams late in the season at the US Open. Berretini can't take advantage of the absence of tennis legend Novak Djokovic from the Australian Open because of vaccination issues, and ends up fading over the course of the season.

In episode 3, California's Taylor Fritz wins Indian Wells (the fifth biggest tournament in tennis) and secures a hold on the claim as the top U.S. player out of an exciting group gaining prominence. He is a California kid with a lot of power and a lot of promise. Maryland's Frances Tiafoe (he trains at one of my regular haunts) becomes another lovable character over the course of the season, as a crowd exciter and a victor over Rafael Nadal in the 2022 US Open.

Other highlights: Spain's Paula Badosa offers a glimpse into how mentally draining pro tennis can be, and Ons Jabeur shows how her status as arguably Africa's greatest player ever and definitely Tunisia's finest unfolds.

The show could have definitely benefited from more of the game's true greats Nadal, Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, and Daniil Medvedev. But that is a minor complaint because the characters featured are indeed worthy characters.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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