Tennis is coming to Netflix. An unnamed, yet much-anticipated documentary will provide an all-access look into the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tours and is certain to expand tennis viewership.
By following certain big-name players throughout the 2022 ATP season and providing an unfiltered behind-the-scenes look into their livelihoods, training, struggles, successes and travel, the documentary, rumored to start airing episodes before the 2023 Australian Open, is likely to influence fans to want to become personally invested in their favorite stars, which would draw year-long interest in the sport. From people looking to binge-watch a new show to those wanting to dive into a new sport, the documentary will captivate a diverse new audience of tennis fans.
The four Grand Slam tournaments are the mecca of tennis, and fan viewership in recent years has been steadily growing, largely because of increased coverage from major sports channels like ESPN. However, smaller ATP and WTA events throughout the year, which have been covered by local stations and the Tennis Channel, fail to garner much public interest, and tennis viewership as a whole pales in comparison to viewership of other major sports in the U.S., like football or basketball.
Netflix plans on featuring former world No. 1 champions Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal; Nick Kyrgios, a finalist at the 2022 Wimbledon tournament; and newly crowned U.S. Open champion Carlos Alcaraz.
On the WTA tour, current world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, as well as reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, will showcase their lives on tour. In a statement about the series, Netflix promises to broadcast equal coverage to ATP and WTA players, differentiating itself from other sports documentaries and providing greater appeal for fans of all genders.
“The series will also be the first sports program of its kind to provide an equal platform to the men’s and women’s competitors of the sport, in keeping with the equal stage they share throughout the year,” the statement reads.
Having insight into the life of tennis players on tour may help audiences, and younger kids, develop an appreciation for the sport. Tennis has lacked an American icon since the age of Andre Agassi and John McEnroe and struggles to make a mark in American popular culture. Netflix might be the driving force of change.
The documentary was produced by Box to Box Films, the same group behind “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” — the Netflix documentary following Formula 1 (F1) — which has now been renewed for a fifth and sixth season and reached the top 10 most-viewed shows in 56 countries.
Since the release of “Drive to Survive,” viewership for F1 has increased by around 50% worldwide, and people with no previous interest in motor sports seem to be tuning in for every Sunday race. The producers strategically focused the show around the flair of F1 life, including drivers like Daniel Ricciardo with big personalities and controversies — both within and between teams — largely overdramatizing the sport.
Current world No. 12 Alexander Zverev expressed his support for the upcoming series.
“I think it’s a great thing for the ATP to try to promote the sport,” Zverev told the press on media day at the 2022 Australian Open. “I think tennis will gain younger fans through a Netflix documentary like ‘Drive to Survive’ because [it] shows the inside of the sport, the pit lane, all that. I think the drama comes with it.”
If “Drive to Survive” is any indicator of the power of marketing in sports, tennis is in line for a major publicity boost. Netflix is broadcasting tennis to the world through a new lens, and the documentary is bound to exponentially grow the outreach of the sport to a new audience. Whether you are a tennis fan or not, tune in and prepare to find yourself drawn to the allure of professional tennis.