Throughout the history of tennis, there have been a lot of outstanding stories to tell. Tennis documentaries can be very enjoyable, especially for people who are into the sport. Even those who do not particularly follow the game can still get a certain level of enjoyment out of the ones listed below.
What are the best seven tennis documentaries throughout history? A great documentary not only tells a story, but it has an interesting topic. These seven fit that description perfectly and should be on the shortlist of any tennis fan wanting to learn about the game.
The 30 for 30 from ESPN focuses on the rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. The two best players in the era went up against each other so many times in big matches, and they had a pretty interesting relationship overall. While they were friendly at times, there was a certain level of competitiveness that kept them at a bit of a distance.
Another underlying difference between the two was how they were perceived by the media. From playing styles to looks, they had so many differences that it seemed like they were playing a different sport at times.
ESPN does a great job going into detail on a sport that they do not cover all that often with documentaries. It was done very well, and reveals information that many might not have known before.
2. Venus and Serena
This might not be the last documentary that comes out for the Williams sisters, but it is the best one right now. Even though it was released in 2012 and they are both still playing to this day, there is a lot of stories to unpack in this documentary. It takes a detailed look at how both players came up by beating the odds and becoming number one players in the world.
Some might forget that it was looking like both sisters had the end of their career closing in. This was when Serena dropped in the rankings, and Venus started to have some health problems.
Almost a decade later, they are both still playing on tour, and it just adds more depth to this documentary overall. It is inspiring to see where they came from, and just how much of an impact they had on tennis in the long term.
There are so many players coming up through the ranks that cite the Williams sisters as the reason why they got into the sport in the first place. By the time they retire, they might be argued as the most inspirational tennis players in the history of the game.
3. Andy Murray: Resurfacing
A pretty modern documentary that was released in 2017, this is a great opportunity to see what went into Andy Murray’s return to the tennis court after dealing with some pretty grueling injuries. The former number one player in the world and multiple Grand Slam champion is one of the most beloved players on tour right now, and a lot of it is being candid about his journey and challenges along the way.
Watching it now also allows people to see where Murray is at this time. It seems unlikely that he is going to return to full form, but just playing again and enjoying the sport seems to put a smile on his face. It is always intriguing to see a player battle through so much to get back into the game, and Murray’s candidness makes the documentary.
4. Strokes of Genius
There is a long debate on the best tennis match of all time, but more than a few people will vote for the 2008 Wimbledon Final. This was when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal faced off in an epic battle that seems like a turning point in tennis.
Many thought that Roger Federer would once again win the championship at Wimbledon. He was the dominant force on grass, while Nadal dominated on clay.
The match, which took almost five hours to complete, finished in a five-set victory for Nadal. The ups and downs of the match, which included a fifth set that finished 9-7, certainly makes for an extremely interesting documentary. This is a documentary that will get better in age, as both players are still playing. Getting a glimpse back to win they were both very much in their prime shows just how great both are.
5. McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice
If there was ever a rivalry that defined the men’s game, it was John McEnroe versus Bjorn Borg. Although both players had a few other rivals, the differences these two guys had put this near the top. One guy was extremely competitive, showed every emotion possible, and was constantly at odds with someone. The other was very cool at all times, and appeared like an extremely laid-back competitor.
HBO did a very good job bringing this rivalry back to life, scoring a few interesting interviews from different players during that time, as well as McEnroe and Borg themselves. They spent a lot of time making this not only a great watch for tennis fans, but sports fans in general. This was taking place as tennis started to explode around the world, and getting these two players helped.
6. This Is What They Want
In 1991, Jimmy Connors surprised many people with one last deep run at the U.S. Open. At 39 years old, most people thought that he was finished as a player. He had to take the long journey back, coming through multiple challengers leading up to the event. Many got behind Connors as he made the push, and he turned into one of the biggest stories of the sports year.
Although he ultimately lost in the semifinals to Jim Courier, Connors inspired a lot of people during that time. He won a lot of fans over at that point in his career, showing that he could put in the hard work as an underdog, years after being the favorite in so many matches. The film itself captures this time in tennis perfectly.
7. Facing Federer
At some point in time, a better Federer documentary will be released. However, in 2004, there was a very insightful documentary called Facing Federer. He was a relatively new force on the tour, and although he was already a champion, no one knew that he would turn into perhaps the greatest player of all time.
The documentary specifically focuses on the Masters Tour in 2004. Federal is still very young, bursting onto the scene as a guy with all the potential in the world. It is interesting to look back, knowing what people know now, and trying to understand what makes him great. It is one of those evolutions that shocks many.
For educational purposes, looking back is very insightful. A lot of people thought he had virtually unlimited potential, even so early in his career.