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Break Point review: Netflix’s successor to Drive to Survive is far from ace

In January 2023, three days before the start of the Australian Open, Netflix dropped part one of Break Point, which follows ten ATP and WTA players throughout the 2022 season. The series is produced by the same production company as Drive to Survive, leading to a certain degree of expectation around its success, as well as excitement from tennis fans such as myself.

For many, this interest was extinguished by the subject of the first episode entitled ‘The Maverick’, which centres on Australian Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios is an infamously divisive figure; however, it was easier to look past his bratty on-court behaviour when he didn’t have domestic assault allegations hanging over him. The episode unsurprisingly doesn’t address this and instead dedicates an alarming amount of time to Kyrgios’ girlfriend of two months — quite the character witness indeed.

However, Matteo Berrettini and Taylor Fritz put in a good effort to redeem the series in the coming episodes. The success of Drive to Survive was largely due to its focus on the complex and intriguing personalities of elite athletes and their entourage, and Fritz and his team are an interesting case of this. Fritz is currently leading the way for elite male tennis American players, of which there have been few in recent years. However, in true Drive to Survive style, the episode dedicated to Fritz’s Indian Wells victory over Rafa Nadal completely fails to mention how Nadal himself struggled with injury throughout the match. But who needs full transparency when there is drama?

The issue with Break Point does not come from the likeability of the protagonists, as they all seem nice enough individuals. The issue stems from how boring it makes tennis seem. Inspired by the success of Drive to Survive, the series is saturated with dramatic voiceovers and tense background music, which notwithstanding fails to create any amount of suspense for the matches shown.

I believe this boils down to predictability. The producers picked ten players from the hundreds on tour, meaning that the chances of them consistently succeeding on tour are much slimmer, compared to the 20 drivers on the F1 circuit. The result is therefore manufactured drama where more hype is created around smaller wins that the players will inevitably reach by the end of the episode.

In the final episode, Serena Williams’ former coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, says that “You don’t win a Grand Slam with your tennis, you win it with your heart”. Every tennis player the series follows seems to be in a constant battle with their tennis, their hearts and their heads, often simultaneously. Few players have the belief they are good enough to beat the likes of Djokovic, Nadal or Williams, and the few who do have this belief tend to lose it mid-match. This was plain to see by how each of the players fared at January’s Australian Open. Despite being the supposed next-big-things in the tennis world, the player in Break Point who made it furthest in Australia was Felix Auger-Aliassime, who lost to world number 71 in the fourth round.

The series’ best hope for Part Two, dropping just before Wimbledon in June, is if they strike gold by following those who succeeded in the remaining Grand Slams. So unless I see an episode entitled ‘King Carlos’ or ‘Kids in America’, following Alcaraz’s US Open run, then I think I will give it a miss.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

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