‘Break Point,’ Netflix’s ‘Drive’ for tennis, debuts Jan. 13

A Netflix docuseries about professional tennis called “Break Point” — think of it as that sport’s answer to the popular “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” — will debut on Jan. 13, three days before the start of the 2023 Grand Slam season at the Australian Open.

Netflix revealed the title and launch date on Wednesday, when it also released a 30-second teaser.

The first five episodes — focusing on Melbourne Park, Indian Wells, Madrid and Roland Garros — will be available next month. The season’s other five installments — which look at Wimbledon, Eastbourne, Queens Club, the U.S. Open, WTA Finals and ATP Finals — arrive in June.

Players featured include Grand Slam champions Iga Swiatek and Sloane Stephens, and Grand Slam runners-up Nick Kyrgios, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Ons Jabeur. Also appearing: Felix Auger-Aliassime, Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Ajla Tomljanovic, Paula Badosa, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari.

Not at the center of the streaming series: Serena Williams and Roger Federer, both 41 and done with their playing days, or Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, both in their mid-30s and winners of major titles this year.

“It’s hard to imagine another sport which has been so dominated by a handful of individuals for so long. But they are at the end of the cycle — barring, obviously, Novak and Rafa, to some extent. The changing of the guard is happening,” executive producer James Gay-Rees said in a video interview with The Associated Press.

“And therefore, the timing was really good, too. Because I love tennis, but I’m like, ‘Who is Tsitsipas?’ Do you know what I mean? In all honesty,” he said. “But actually, you realize, ’My God, he’s No. 5 in the world. He’s a really, seriously, good tennis player and he’s a really interesting guy. And I’d like to know more about him.’ Because all I’ve heard for the last 15-20 years is, ‘Roger, Roger, Roger. Serena, Serena, Serena.’ For a reason, right? Obviously we’re not disputing that, because they’re legends and icons. But I think it was really exciting shining a light on a new generation.”

Gay-Rees and fellow executive producer Paul Martin of Box to Box Films also made “Drive to Survive,” among other projects, and are working on series about the worlds of golf and surfing.

The fourth season of “Drive to Survive,” released in March, drew its largest audience so far and made the Netflix top-10 TV list in more than 50 countries. It is widely credited with helping grow interest in Formula One racing.

“You obviously want to keep the core audience happy — the tennis enthusiasts — but if we’re doing our job correctly, then the show should appeal to people who’ve got no interest in tennis at all,” Gay-Rees said. “The pre-‘Drive to Survive’ Formula One demographic might have been described by some people as fairly male, pale and stale. And I think that the show, alongside some other factors, has contributed to the demographic shifting significantly younger for that sport, which is obviously manna from heaven if that’s what your objective was.”

Martin acknowledged that some might think of other sports-based series as what he called “Drive to Survive for XXX,” but he said the characters and the way a tennis season is structured give “an entirely different feel” to “Break Point.”

He believes it showcases “the physicality, the mental side, the rivalries, the pain” seen in tennis.

Which are all connected to the name of the show and its double meaning. Even though it wasn’t made public until Wednesday, Martin said “Break Point” was the working title from Day 1.

“We always felt like we were going to find something better,” he said. “The honest answer is we didn’t. And it just seemed to work.”

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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