Netflix’s Break Point Docuseries Breaks Through

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Bill Simons

The buzz was everywhere.

In locker and press rooms from Melbourne to Paris, insiders and fans alike have long been speculating about an upcoming tennis documentary that promised to peek behind tennis’s many curtains.

After all, Netflix had aired a revealing look at Formula 1 racing, Michael Jordan, Mardy Fish and Naomi Osaka. Now it was delving deep into the intriguing, often mysterious world of pro tennis for its documentary, Break Point.

Never before had there been such anticipation for a tennis show-all. Today five episodes, which cover the first half of 2022, began airing. 

From the pathos of Nick Kyrgios winning the Aussie Open doubles to Taylor Fritz’s Cinderella win at Indian Wells and the magic of Rafa on his beloved clay in Paris, we see the grit and loneliness of tennis and the drug-like ecstasy of winning.

There are few jaw-dropping revelations. Instead, we get a real-time, well-paced mosaic. Fueled by the fierce drive to reach the top is a win-or-go-home world of painful defeats, dreary drudgery, tedious travel, I’ve-got-your-back team members and invaluable girlfriends and boyfriends who are there to soothe the pain. Mostly we see the joy of victory on the big stage. 

Taylor Fritz insists, “Nothing in the whole world can beat that feeling of winning.” Paula Badosa says, “You are chasing that all the time.”  

Netflix introduces the series by capturing the essence of the game. Rafa tells us, “You step on that court – time stops.” Others remind us, “You are out there by yourself…Your heart starts beating faster…And that little voice in your head doesn’t stop…Suddenly I feel the fear coming…This is the one thing we are waiting for…The atmosphere is electric.” 

Broadcaster-coach Paul Annacone observes, “[In] the last decade we have been blessed with an era of greatness – Roger, Rafa, Serena and Novak.” But sands are shifting, and Felix Auger-Aliassime insists, “We can’t just wait for them to retire. We have to find a way to win.” 

Broadcasters with varied accents tell us, “We may be finally witnessing a major shift in the game…So who will take their place?” Matteo Berrettini self-deprecatingly looks in the mirror and asks, “Like, who the hell is this guy?” 

While Aussie Alja Tomljanovic says, “I know what I am capable of and how much work I’ve put in,” Kyrgios confides, “I want to know what it feels like to win a title.” Frances Tiafoe is his usual blunt, unrelenting self. His simple message is, “Don’t f–k it up.” 

Soon Andy Roddick warns us, “The hardest thing in sports is expectations. Everybody chokes – but what defines greatness is the ability to manage these big moments.”

We are left wondering, is this new generation up to it? Amidst the Darwinian frenzy, we hear, “This is f–kin’ bonkers…It’s what you’ve worked your whole life to do. It’s now or never. Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentleman. Let’s do it.”

In the first segment, called “The Maverick,” we get an up-close view of tennis’s circus-master-in-chief, Nick Kyrgios, who started 2021 in a bit of a daze, ranked No. 115. Well before he reached the Wimbledon final, doubters hovered. 

Nick has long been without a coach or a trainer, but his manager Daniel “Horse” Horsfall reminds us, “Nick’s different. He keeps you entertained and on the edge of your seat.” Roddick notes, “It’s insane what he can do on a court.”  

Kyrgios admitted. “I don’t know what the f–k is going on with that crowd, but they are insane.” 

While his Aussie Open foe, Daniil Medvedev, is said to be a mental giant who is a “ruthless…winning machine,” Kyrgios is a must-watch “slayer of seeds.”

We spot a shelf-full of Nick’s smashed Yonex rackets as he explains (or should we say justifies) his explosive fury: “I’m two different people. Sometimes I do cross the line. That’s just my passion, my emotion. Millions of people are watching you. If you are not playing the best, would you not be frustrated and angry and smash your racket? I have to let it out, out there.”

After Medvedev bounces Kyrgios out of the Aussie Open, commentators ask, “Is this the last we’ll see of Kyrgios?…He’s a hell of an entertainer but has he maximized that talent? That will always be the question that hangs over Nick.”

Then we see adorable pictures of a young, pudgy Kyrgios and his appealing mom, Norlaila, who speaks her maternal truth: “I worry about him every day because he’s gone through some really unhappy times.”

The 19-year-old Kyrgios broke through in 2014 at Wimbledon, when he slew Nadal. Everything changed. Expectations soared. Here was “the next best thing.” But observers noted he became so aggressive and angry, plus there was racism to deal with. 

Australia’s legendary Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser said Nick should go back to where his parents came from. Kyrgios was branded as a bad boy and a villain. His backers complained, “Every article, every tabloid, every person said what a shit bloke he was.”

Nick emerged as tennis’s new bad boy. Kyrgios recalled how his mental wellness spiraled downward and he drank every night. Last year he confided, “I just have to be kind to myself…I just want to go out there and have fun… and live more of a normal life.”

Then good fortune came his way. Online he met a wonderful woman, Costeen Hatzi, who gave him much-needed support. Plus, he teamed with his childhood pal Thanasis Kokkinakis. We’re told, “It’s like the full moon came up and the werewolf came out.” The jolly Aussie swashbucklers unleashed a magical run that gained them the Aussie Open title. 

In “California Dreaming,” the third installment of Break Point, we get an intimate look at Taylor Fritz in Indian Wells, where he made his courageous, storybook run to his first masters title. With his longtime girlfriend Morgan Riddle often at his side, Taylor is reluctant to admit he’s America’s best player. He speaks of his rise in the game: “It’s a process. Top 10, top eight, top three, then No. 1.” 

His coach Paul Annacone offers wisdom: tennis is a game of three categories: the physical, your heart and your head. But you can’t want it too much. “Self-imposed pressure is the biggest catalyst to paralyze your talent…At the biggest moment in your life, it’s dead silent.”

Just hours before his Indian Wells final against Nadal, Fritz seemed dead in the water. He’d badly sprained his ankle in practice – the pain was excruciating. His coaches urged him not to play, but Fritz said that he’d trained his whole life for this moment and if he pulled out, “It would bother me for my whole life.” He insisted the show had to go on. 

Fearlessly he took his best shot at Rafa and won. “This is a day he’ll remember for the rest of his life,” said one broadcaster. “It’s a crazy childhood dream that came true,” Taylor gushed.

Across three continents, Netflix’s “Break Point” is a heady, breezy, sympathetic journey into one crazy game.

As the documentary focuses on the European spring circuit, Roddick admits, “As someone who didn’t grow up on clay, I was like an elephant on roller skates out there.” Coach Patrick Mouratoglou asserts, “You don’t win a Grand Slam with your tennis, you win with your heart.”

Of course, tennis can be a heartbreaking exercise. All but one player loses each week. Yes, “Break Point” tells us, the game is painful, but with its sublime, soul-satisfying triumphs, it’s simply irresistible to those seeking glory.

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