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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

CAUSING A RACQUET | Grading ‘Break Point’ Season 2: Part 1

Season 2 of “Break Point,” the Netflix docudrama series that follows the lives of several top players on the professional tennis tour, was released on Jan. 10. Here are my grades for the first three episodes.

Episode 1: “The Curse”

The second season of the show opens with a lackluster episode focused on the 2023 Australian Open, the first of the season’s four grand slams. With nine of the ten “Break Point” participants  losing before the second week, the show spends too much time fixated on the idea of the “Netflix Curse” — the odd phenomenon of the Netflix-featured players falling in the early stages of the tournament. 

It would have been much more interesting to have seen how some of these “cursed” players coped with losing in the early rounds — a careful analysis of where things went wrong and how the players felt. 

Instead, Netflix chose to embellish the self-promoting narrative of the “Netflix Curse” without paying much attention to the individual circumstances of the players themselves.

The second half of “The Curse” is devoted to Aryna Sabalenka, the only Netflix-featured player left in the draw, and the path to her first Grand Slam title. Although the episode builds a heavy, emotional storyline around the passing of Sabalenka’s father and her dreams of cementing his legacy by capturing a major crown, Sabalenka does not boast the name recognition to single-handedly carry the episode. Nonetheless, her story is compelling, and Sabalenka herself is friendly and good on camera.

Grade: C+

Episode 2: “The Future Is Yours”

The second episode of the season spotlights one of the rising stars in the men’s game: Holger Rune — the hotheaded 20-year-old Danish player who tries to compete with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz for the biggest titles in the world. 

The episode does a nice job of providing different perspectives on the mental side of the game, ranging from the likes of tennis great Jim Courier to the emotionally unpredictable yet talented Nick Kyrgios to Rune’s no-nonsense, blunt mother. However, at times “The Future Is Yours” seems more like a marketing tool for Rune’s coach at the time, Patrick Mouratoglou, rather than an honest look into the grueling lifestyle atop the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour. 

Viewers are rarely offered glimpses into Rune’s training regimen, and the show somehow manages to ignore its central aspect — tennis. When showing Rune’s play in some of the most thrilling matches of the year, the camera merely utilizes close-up slow-motion clips rather than full-length points in full view. 

Overall, the second season does not provide any insight into what plays out in an actual match and fails to impress viewers with the quality of the play, which is essential in appealing to new fans of the sport.

Although “The Future Is Yours” highlights Rune’s straight-set loss to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon quarterfinal and foreshadows a future rivalry between the two 20-year-old phenoms, the episode disregards the historic 2023 Wimbledon Championship match between Djokovic and Alcaraz, a five-set, all-time thriller. This missed opportunity speaks to Netflix’s continued lack of access to some of the sport’s top players. 

Grade: B-

Wikimedia Commons | In this edition of “Causing a Racquet,” Robbie Werdiger (CAS ’24) reviews the first three episodes of the second season of Netflix tennis docuseries “Break Point.”

Episode 3: “Friend or Foe”

The third episode of the series finally grabs the audience’s attention by following three of the top American male players: Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul. 

The laid-back personalities of the trio provide raw insight into the game, a refreshing break from the otherwise manufactured drama. The three Americans each bring a unique swagger to the sport and open up in the episode about their quest for greatness, which sometimes infringes upon their friendships.

It’s hard not to root for Tiafoe and his infectious smile as he describes his determination to achieve lasting greatness and serve as an inspiration for players of color. Tiafoe brings style to tennis that a younger audience can feed off of, as he performs electric celebrations and befriends top athletes like basketball superstar LeBron James. 

Paul brings the relatable persona of an American “frat boy,” outlining his struggles with alcoholism and partying that had stalled his breakthrough into the top 20 on the pro tour. 

And then Fritz, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 5 in 2023, intriguingly discusses his constant fear of being surpassed in the rankings by his two compatriots and the weight placed on his shoulders as the highest-ranked American on the men’s tour. 

The episode offers an authentic lens into the athletes’ personal lives and relationships off the court. Still, the series’ approach of spotlighting certain players over the year’s major events on the tour results in constant confusion. 

As has become a pattern in “Break Point,” the episode jumps from one match to another and cuts off before a tournament’s completion, disregarding the victor and other top seeds. Netflix arguably had a better approach in “Drive to Survive,” where each season chronicled the totality of the Formula 1 calendar and showcased all racers at each event. 

Grade: A- 

Stay tuned for a review of the second half of ( more highly-rated) episodes in the next edition of “Causing a Racquet.”

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