Break Point Sees Nick Kyrgios Take Centre Stage As Netflix Aim Docuseries At New Fans

Nick Kyrgios is the nearest thing tennis has to a Tyson Fury kind of personality – complex, contradictory and sometimes outrageous.

And the makers of the new Netflix documentary series coming out this week, Break Point, are clearly not of the view that the mercurial Australian is somehow bad for the game.

Kyrgios is seen more as its trump card, and he dominates the first of five episodes being launched this week in a racket-wielding version of F1’s Drive to Survive.

Nick Kyrgios is seen as tennis’ trump card in Netflix’s new documentary series Break Point

‘People really don’t understand how different I go about my tennis and my life compared to every other player,’ he tells this camera.

Whether this comes as news even to those with just a cursory knowledge of the sport is debatable, but then it should be stated that this show is aimed squarely at the unconverted.

Among that very large constituency appears to be the Australian’s girlfriend, Costeen, to whom he seems devoted.

One scene early on has Kyrgios’s agent sitting in the stands at the Australian Open, talking her through the most rudimentary aspects of the sport’s scoring system.

That is one of many tennis explainers along the way, and it makes clear the objective both of the series’ British directors and the tennis governing bodies, who gave full support and tournament access to the project.

There is a big focus on the Australian's relationship with girlfriend Costeen Hatzi (pictured)

There is a big focus on the Australian’s relationship with girlfriend Costeen Hatzi (pictured)

The result, based on the first five editions, is something very much at entry level. Its aim is to entice the many millions of sports followers who have a casual interest in the world’s highest profile racket sport, but whose knowledge pretty much ends at the ageing or departed Federers, Nadals and Williamses.

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Beautifully shot and often visually stunning, Break Point delicately scratches at the surface of the tour without ever revealing much of substance about the players upon who it focusses.

It should hook in some new fans. Judging by this initial offering, however, it is unlikely to do what Netflix did for another mainly European enterprise in the United States, elevating F1 to the height of sexiness.

Little new emerges about Kyrgios, a compelling character capable of dropping truth bombs amid sometimes snarky and unpredictable behaviour that has held back an extravagant natural talent.

Kyrgios comes across as expected: a remarkable talent held back by unpredictable behaviour

Kyrgios comes across as expected: a remarkable talent held back by unpredictable behaviour

He takes centre stage in the opener which focusses on the Australian Open of 2022. His eventual run to the doubles title receives massive airtime while the biggest story of the tournament, maybe the whole year – Novak Djokovic’s deportation – gets relatively short shrift.

new balance

If there is a problem with the other players the producers have collaborated with it is that most of them are – and it can be a frustration to anyone who covers this gladiatorial sport – a bit too darned nice.

There is the smoulderingly handsome Italian Matteo Berrettini who, almost annoyingly, is likeable with it. You would struggle to meet more wholesome athletes than those who feature in subsequent episodes, such as Greece’s Maria Sakkari, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, American Taylor Fritz or Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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Yet amid the platitudes are fascinating glimpses of the realities of touring. Some viewers will be quizzical at their insistence that the life is arduous while they are chauffeured to and from five-star hotels in glamorous global spots, but it can undoubtedly be so.

The series appears to be focused on getting casual or entry-level fans interested in tennis

The series appears to be focused on getting casual or entry-level fans interested in tennis

In the immediate aftermath of defeat the reaction of both Sakkari and Alja Tomljanovic, for example, is to talk despairingly in terms of wanting to pack it all in.

Sakkari’s support team, including her British coach Tom Hill, are miked up as they watch her become the latest victim of Iga Swiatek, in the Indian Wells final. Their verdict is unsparing: ‘This is a mental capitulation,’ says one. ‘She’s getting stuffed,’ declares another.

It is in the same desert paradise that the film makers hit upon their best story line when native Californian Fritz – whose gravelly voice always suggests he has had a good night out – wins his near hometown event. During the tournament he has to persuade his coaches that he is fit enough to continue despite an ankle injury.

A juicy controversy is sensed when, at the French Open, Auger-Aliassime faces the celebrated nephew of his new coach, Toni Nadal. Toni insists he wants to stay neutral for the match and eventually absents himself, but any sting is taken out of it by his Canadian client’s lack of complaint.

Other interesting snapshots include the clothes-strewn shambles of Berrettini’s hotel room as he shares a soulless room service dinner with his then-girlfriend Tomljanovic. This definitely has the air of authentic life on the circuit.

A different insight is provided by the scenes in the tunnel before players go out on court. In particular there is the in-your-face preparatory routine of Rafael Nadal, who lets opponents know what they are in for with his hyperactive sprints and shadow shots.

In between there are rather too many clichés, although with five more episodes to deliver in the summer it may yet hot up more consistently.

The exploding genre of sports documentaries means that these will have a diminishing effect on a sport’s popularity, but at least tennis – whose leaders can rarely agree on anything innovative – is having a go.

For now this will be a pleasant bit of escapism for any sports fan on dismal January days, and it is the sweeping panoramic shots which are often the star of the show, rather than the words.

Break Point’s first five episodes are released by Netflix on January 13.

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