Break Point: Five things to look out for in the new Netflix tennis series
The first five episodes of Break Point have dropped on Netflix – showing us, as top-10 player Taylor Fritz puts it, “how rough being a tennis player actually is”.
“You lose every single week,” says the American. “You have to be a very confident person to keep coming back.”
Fritz is among the main stars of the series, which also features Nick Kyrgios opening up about drinking problems in his early 20s, and Ons Jabeur discussing the dilemmas female players face when they want to start a family.
Producer James Gay-Rees told BBC Sport the series captured some of the loneliness of life as a player on tour.
“You’re quite often travelling alone, staying in hotels by yourself, playing alone,” he said.
“Only one person wins a tournament. There are brief moments of joy amidst oceans of regret and loss.”
World number six Maria Sakkari said: “We don’t have a normal lifestyle – that’s a fact.
“This is a great opportunity for people who don’t know tennis from the inside to really see the struggles.”
In the first episode of Break Point, we get a close look at Kyrgios – the game’s most mercurial star.
It is almost nine years since a teenage Kyrgios shocked the world by beating world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.
Now 27 and the world number 21, Kyrgios says that match changed “everything” for him.
“From that day forth, the expectation on me to be the next big thing was massive,” he recalls.
Despite his early promise and undeniable talent, Kyrgios is yet to win a major singles title, and his occasional outbursts on and off court have been accompanied by a lot of bad press.
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In the series, he describes falling into unhealthy habits during his early 20s.
“For four, five years of my career, it was just so chaotic,” the Australian says. “My life was just kind of spiralling out of control – drinking every single night.”
Kyrgios’ manager and confidante Daniel Horsfall remembers tracking Kyrgios’ location on his phone.
“Some mornings, I would have to physically go and find where you were – what hotel you were at, whose house you were staying at – before tournaments, before a match,” he says.
And Kyrgios is very open about how he has to manage his relationship with tennis.
“For my mental health, I could never be one of those players that plays all year round again,” he says.
‘I couldn’t sleep for three days’
Sakkari’s frustrating 2021 is also documented in the series.
The 27-year-old from Greece played in eight semi-finals that year, and failed to advance from any of them.
“I was just struggling because I could see the finish line and then I wouldn’t win the match,” she says in episode three.
“My mind would go so far in a match and then I just couldn’t close it out. I was too excited. I was nearly there, but not there at the same time.”
Probably the most painful of Sakkari’s semi-final defeats was a French Open loss to Barbora Krejcikova from match point.
“I just didn’t know how to handle that situation,” she says.
“I couldn’t sleep for three days. I was just lying in bed, trying to sleep, but I was so nervous and so sad. It was tough for me to handle. I told my coaches that I wanted to retire.”
Sakkari was back just four days later and by March 2022 she was third in the world rankings.
She told BBC Sport she has had to learn to accept losses.
“I know that I can’t win every single week – there are just a few players who have actually done that,” she said.
“I know I’m trying my best on the court and that, at the moment, I’m one of the best players in the world. I keep reminding myself of that.”
‘Women do a lot of sacrifices’
Jabeur, from Tunisia, is second in the women’s standings, and the highest-ranked African and Arab player in history.
In episode four, she talks about defying expectations as an Arab woman.
“I always believed I could be a professional tennis player, but a tennis player coming from Tunisia – that was a different thing,” she says.
“People thought that I would be quitting tennis, that I would be becoming a housewife, but I always believed in my dream.”
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova praises Jabeur’s achievements.
“To come from nowhere, with no resource and to get past all the barriers – what that means for her country, for herself, for her family… it’s incredible,” she says.
Jabeur, 28, has ambitions to win a major title – and last year reached the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open.
But she would also like to start a family.
Only three women have won a singles Grand Slam title after giving birth – Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters.
And Jabeur is all too aware of the pressures women face in tennis.
“Women do a lot of sacrifices,” she says. “If you want to have a child, you cannot just go and have a child, you have to sacrifice maybe something you love – family – for a career.
“I wish I was a man, you know – ‘I want to have a baby – done’.”
4. ‘It was clear to me if I had to play Rafa, he wouldn’t want me to win’
Felix Auger-Aliassime is a rising star in the tennis world – the 22-year-old Canadian is ranked seventh in the world.
In 2021, he added Toni Nadal to his coaching team. Nadal is the uncle of the legendary Rafael, and coached him from the age of three until 2017. In that time, Rafael won 16 major titles.
In May last year, Auger-Aliassime lost to Rafael at the French Open.
Prior to that match, Toni caused some controversy by stating he wanted his nephew to win. Auger-Aliassime says in the series he views that as par for the course.
“It was very clear to me once we started working together that if I had to play Rafa, he wouldn’t want me to win necessarily – like, he wouldn’t want me to beat his nephew,” he says.
Auger-Aliassime’s agent Bernard Duchesneau says: “We respect the fact it’s family. He doesn’t want to put himself in a conflict of interest. It’s all good. For us, it was understood.”
‘If I pulled out, I’d be thinking about it forever’
The 25-year-old California native beat Nadal to win the Indian Wells Masters and climbed to a career-high world ranking of eighth.
In Break Point, Fritz’s trainer Paul Annacone – who previously coached legends Pete Sampras and Roger Federer – describes Fritz as “one of the toughest, most strong-willed players I’ve ever been around”.
And we get a good illustration of Fritz’s mentality in episode three.
Fritz injures his ankle during his Indian Wells semi-final against Andrey Rublev, putting his appearance in the final in jeopardy.
He is told by Dr Patrick St Pierre he may have “a little fracture”.
“You could cause more harm than good,” he is told. “It’s really hard for me to believe that numbing it up is the right thing.”
Despite that guidance from Dr St Pierre and his coaching team, Fritz stubbornly refuses to miss the final.
“I’ve trained my whole life for this moment,” he says. “If I pulled out, I’d be thinking about it forever.”
Reflecting on that, he told BBC Sport: “It’s tough for anyone that’s not me to know the level of pain I was feeling. For me to be sure I wasn’t going to be able to play – it takes a lot. I didn’t think there was a chance. The first thing was to get the pain down with numbing injections.
“Any time you have that kind of pain, it’s scary. I’m very stubborn – it’s the biggest match of my life, it’s a home tournament. There’s no way I couldn’t allow myself to play.”
Thankfully for Fritz, there were no regrets as he beat Nadal to become the first American to win at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.