With only a few days to go before the first Grand Slam of the year begins, Netflix have released the highly-anticipated successor to Drive to Survive: Break Point. The latest documentary series follows the highs and lows on and off the courts of some of tennis’ future greats, including Paula Badosa’s first-round knockout at the Madrid Open.
And while Break Point allows us this insight into the more personal aspects of players - including the fact that Matteo Berrettini is not the biggest fan of The Holiday (criminal behaviour) - it seems to be missing at least one main ingredient that made its predecessor so good. Drive to Survive was immeasurably invaluable in bringing a new, younger and more female-heavy audience.
Formula 1 had been a sport seemingly separated from reality and one that is exceptionally male dominated. Additionally, unlike most sports, it’s not something that you can just run off to the park to play, but Drive to Survive helped make the sport and the drivers seem much more accessible. It no longer was just for the car and engineering fanatics, it was something everyone could enjoy. However there is just not the same need in tennis.
Contrary to many of the other main sports we think of, such as football and rugby, tennis is actually one of the few very inclusive sports when it comes to gender equality. The world of tennis was the first to have tournaments where the men and women’s prize money was the same and, while there are still some complaints surrounding coverage, on the whole ATP and WTA tournaments enjoy the same broadcasting rights.
Obviously this is not to say that diversity cannot be improved in tennis - it absolutely can. Most notably, with the number of players from ethnic minority backgrounds there are - or more importantly, there are not.
Ultimately, the same fundamentals that made Drive to Survive such a hit are just simply not there in tennis, and the sport is unlikely to see the growth in fanbase that Formula 1 enjoyed.
It’s a pretty universal trait of human nature to be invested in the lives of our favourite sporting stars (and I will obviously never complain if Berrettini is on my screen), and while I will enjoy watching the Australian Open with a deeper appreciation of the rising stars’ mental struggles, I can’t help but worry that Break Point might not quite enjoy the impact it had hoped for.