Netflix Pro Tennis Documentary: Scoring the Players’ Performances so Far
For pro tennis, it’s hard to get into the mainstream sports news unless your name is Serena or Roger. Or Djokovic and you’re in an international crisis.
But pros and fans (and even tennis twitter!) were excited when news broke that Netflix was producing a documentary around professional tennis players. It’s designed to be like the popular Formula 1: Drive to Survive.
Rumors are swirling about what’s to come, but what we know is Netflix cameras are following a group of players throughout the 2022 season. Since we just wrapped the clay court season, let’s rate how the (rumored) players involved have fared so far this season.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: B+
Stefanos was a perfect fit for this project. As we’ve mentioned, he’s inherently entertaining on and off the court. He loves philosophical quotes on twitter, he has a beautiful game to watch and there’s always light drama when he’s around (think bathroom breaks and coaching violations).
In terms of his game, Stef won Monte Carlo again in, you guessed it, dramatic fashion. And he made a run to the Rome finals. He’s certainly disappointed by a 4th round upset at Roland Garros though. After a successful start to the year in Australia (making the SFs), he must be hoping for more success during the US hardcourt season.
While his game seems like it could work well on grass if he could develop a better slice backhand, he’ll likely need another few years before he excels on the surface.
Taylor Fritz: B+
Taylor doesn’t have the charisma and intrigue that other players have on court. But a career-best showing in Australia, reaching the second week for the first time, kicked things off nicely for the cameras.
It’s unlikely anything will compare to Taylor’s stunning run to the Indian Wells title in March. He fought his way through to the final when he injured his ankle before the match against Nadal. His unlikely run ended with him beating Nadal in what will surely be a major highlight on the series.
He’ll be looking for some big results again on the grass and hard courts, because injuries and decreased level of play hurt his clay court season. He was a non-factor throughout the spring clay season.
Matteo Berrettini: A
Berretini is going to be a hit on the Netflix documentary no matter what he does on court. His good looks, infectious smile and nice-guy personality will certainly make him the star of the series.
Even better for the doc? He was injured for most of the first part of the year. So fans will be able to see him rehab and working to get back. They’ll be thrilled to see him win his first title back on tour, beating Andy Murray the first of the grass season. Welcome to world stage, Matteo.
Felix Auger-Alliseem: A
Felix “finally” won his first title (after 8 final losses in a row) earlier this year. Just in time for the cameras to catch it. Big plus there. And while he was pretty quiet since, no doubt his Roland Garros storyline will be featured.
You couldn’t really write it any better: Young upstart hires Toni Nadal, Rafa’s famous uncle and longtime coach. Rafa, who currently leads the all-time Grand Slam race and is a beloved icon of the sport, also has a resurgence this year. The two would meet in a dramatic, 5-set battle in the QFs of Roland Garros. It was Rafa’s closest test of the tournament, which he won for a 14th (!!) time. Netflix has to love being within touching distance to the all-time great in such a close way.
Aryna Sabalenka: A
What can you say about Sabalenka’s year? Rollercoaster and dramatic doesn’t even begin to explain it:
- She started the year by splitting with her on-and-off coach. And after such a strong year in 2021, her tennis was downright dreadful to start the year. Her double fault issues became the running joke of tennis twitter.
- Despite her serving woes, she fought her way into the 4th round of the Australian Open – not bad for someone who was serving 20+ double faults per match.
- Though her serve got better, she struggled to find her game, losing early in almost every tournament. That is until she made the prestigious Stuttgart final on clay this spring.
- Wimbledon announced that Russian and Belarussian players wouldn’t be allowed to play this year, meaning Aryna was unable to defend her SF points from last year. It was a shocking and (surely) devastating announcement for her and the other players from her country. Seeing the news and her reaction during the documentary will be enthralling, if not very sad, viewing.
- Sabalenka bounced back on the grass, making the final of her first tournament on the surface. During her runner up speech, she got emotional talking about her year.
In the end, Sabalenka is a streaky player with a fun, thoughtful side many fans don’t see. Hearing her discuss this year will be as entertaining as her matches.
Maria Sakkari: B
Sakkari can’t be happy with her year. She’s coming up on 3 full years since she won her lone WTA title, and she hasn’t been a factor in late rounds of big tournaments. She was a SF fixture last year. Instead of finding a way to break through and make more finals, she has gone in the opposite direction. An early loss to the always dangerous Muchova at Roland Garros had to be tough.
She earned her B because I want to see her workout routine up close and personal.
Ons Jabeur: A
If the rumors are true and she’s involved, Ons will surely be a breakout star. Her vibrant game, infectious smile and friendly personality make her a fan favorite. Oh, and she’s one of the most badass trailblazers on tour. The Tunisian is breaking barriers this year as the most decorated Arab woman’s tennis player ever. She broke the top 10, won a 1000 level tournament in Madrid and always lights up the highlight reel.
A heartbreaking first round defeat at Roland Garros will hurt, but it will only make her more hungry to perform the rest of the year.
Other rumored players to be involved include:
- Garbine Muguruza: Yikes – this has been an awful year for her on court.
- Elina Svitolina: If true, she’ll have quite the story to tell: The Ukrainian player has been outspoken about the war in her country and just announced she’s pregnant.
- Frances Tiafoe: While Frances is an undeniable star, his game hasn’t done enough this year, especially in the big tournaments. We’ll see where he goes next.
- Dominic Thiem: He’s been injured and on the comeback trail – and he’s fawned over online. Unfortunately for him, Berretinni already has this role filled.
Overall, I don’t think Netflix could have asked for much more in terms of storylines. They could really use a slam win (or big run) from one of their players the second half of the year. Only time will tell, but I look forward to watching.