What Break Point Needs in Season 2 — Super Tweets from SBLVII — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Feb. 14, 2023

Happy Tennis Tuesday, everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day! Go get you some candy, you deserve it!

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I really hate using the term “slow week,” but this period of the calendar doesn’t have too much going on. Sure, this upcoming week in Doha features a loaded draw, but Indian Wells is only three weeks away and I think the casual fans are looking towards that direction.

Speaking of casual fans, I wanted to use this week to talk about Break Point, the Netflix docuseries that premiered it’s first half of the inaugural season during the Australian Open. I watched all six episodes and it was shot incredibly and you can tell it’s not for someone who eats, sleeps and breathes tennis like myself. The producers of the F1 series Drive to Survive are in charge of Break Point, which — according to film crews being spotted in Melbourne — will seemingly have a second season.

Here are some thoughts on the first half of the season and where I would like to see things pivot for next year’s rollout.

When talking with some friends about the series, what really helped Drive to Survive was that there are only 20 drivers in the entire F1 circuit. I’m unsure of the exact number, but I’d reckon that Break Point has roughly that same amount of players, but in reality, there are thousands of players trying to break through. Again, the goal of Break Point is to bring more sport fans into the tennis realm and ideally keep them, so I understand focusing on the tournaments themselves and basically picking a storyline from whichever player went the furthest. For example, Nick Kyrgios winning the doubles title in Melbourne, Maria Sakkari finaling in Indian Wells or Ons Jabeur winning Madrid.

By going this route, I think the producers are missing out on capturing some of the tour’s biggest and brightest personalities. I’d love for the public to learn more about the Sloane Stephens Foundation and something that wasn’t even really discussed during the Indian Wells/Madrid episodes was the retirement of Ashleigh Barty and the dominance of Iga Swiatek. What about all of the mental and biomechanical work of Aryna Sabalenka throughout 2022 that led to her first Grand Slam last month? Ons Jabeur was the favorite to win Roland Garros and crashed in the first round, yet it wasn’t featured at all. I think scrapping the “calendar” POV and focusing on the personalities is something that can be done a bit easier for a second season. By trimming the cast and focusing on a select few players over the course of the entire season is something fans like you or I would enjoy, but Joe Schmo, as well.

Something that I wasn’t the biggest fan of was how male-heavy the first six episodes were. Between Kyrgios and Matteo Berrettini taking over the Melbourne, Taylor Fritz’s Indian Wells triumph and both Felix Auger-Aliassime and Casper Ruud falling to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, I personally felt it was lacking estrogen. Sure, Sakkari had prominence in the Indian Wells episode, but other than that, it felt the Madrid hour was the only one to focus on solely women (Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa). Yes, there’s still six more episodes to unroll, but I’m unfortunately not holding my breath that gender equity will be unveiled by the end.

What Break Point did right was really detailing the small things that separate the upper echelon of the game from their counterparts, specifically the mental intangibles. Mental health was something that was featured a bit that I found inspiring, through Paula Badosa navigating the pressures of being the top seed at her home tournament in Madrid after a career-breakout 2021 season. Even Maria Sakkari reflecting on her losing the 2021 Roland Garros semifinal up match point gave the viewers a very up-close and personal lens of what’s going on in between the players’ ears. Something that the Madrid episode covered was Ons Jabeur’s yearn for a family, but she has to sacrifice that dream for the time being to continue her on-court endeavors. Sloane Stephens took to social media to talk about freezing her eggs in the off-season, so those decisions you really don’t think about that humanize the players I think makes an interesting conversation topic. Battling female sports “taboos” like family planning, periods or dating is something I would love to see more of next season.

Again, I’m not sure which players are being filmed for the second season, but there were rumblings of some following Jessica Pegula, who is one of the players I would recommend to film. Even though she’s been featured in about 10 seconds of B-roll and a one-sentence confessional, Sloane Stephens is a star on camera and yes, that’s bias talking as well. Bianca Andreescu mentioned turning down a Season 1 contract since she wasn’t in the best headspace as she was coming back but did say she would be down to film. Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins are two great picks and perhaps players like Elena Rybakina, who never got her due after her Wimbledon crown. Maybe Ukranians Elina Svitolina coming back from maternity leave or Marta Kostyuk starting to find her voice on and off the court? I also think it should be paramount to have a doubles player involved. My pick? Luisa Stefani. She’s a friend of The IX, probably the best doubles player on the planet at the moment and hails from a huge sporting nation in Brazil.

Overall, Break Point serves its purpose, but I don’t know if I see it making a dent and creating this massive movement like it did for F1. It’s neither easy or organic to make lightning strike twice. I’m curious to know your thoughts.

Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Belinda Bencic saved three championship points to earn her first win over Liudmila Samsonova to capture the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open. With the win, Bencic handed Samsonova her first loss in a WTA final. Luisa Stefani and Zhang Shuai outlasted Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-Ching to win their first title as a doubles duo. Stefani currently is on an 18-match winning streak on the doubles court and honestly, who’s stopping her?

Anastasia Potapova battled all week long with multiple three-setters to take home her second WTA singles title at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz. The Russian downed Petra Martic to help secure a new career-high ranking. In doubles, Natela Dzalamidze and Viktoria Kuzmova saved a championship point in their epic over Anna-Lena Friedsam and Nadiia Kichenok.

The University of North Carolina continues to dominate at the ITA Division I National Women’s Team Indoor Championships. The Tar Heels became the first team to capture a fourth consecutive title and their dismantling has been in the making for much longer:

This week’s must-read is Jessica Pegula’s penning for the The Players’ Tribune. She discusses the health issues surrounding her mom, Kim, and how that and the Damar Hamlin cardiac arrest affected her on and off of the court. On a similar note, it was amazing to see her fellow players rally around her after it’s release.

With Max Eisenbud in her corner, Iga Swiatek might soon be making quite the off-court impact she would like to do after dominating the WTA Tour.

Two Black History Month reads for you this week: Althea Gibson continuing to lead in a unique way in Harlem, while how players like Gibson helped pave the way for the sport’s current crop of superstars.

Congratulations to Ana Ivanovic, who is expecting her third child with husband Bastien Schweinsteiger:

Unfortunately, Ons Jabeur won’t be seen during the Middle East swing after having to withdraw due to a minor surgery. Not more was mentioned on what ailment is affecting the World No. 3.

The entry list for the BNP Paribas Open was unveiled, along with the announcement that Emma Raducanu will receive a main draw wildcard.

Elina Svitolina returned to Ukraine for the first time since Russia’s invasion last year and details her bigger “mission” as she continues to navigate her return from motherhood.

Sloane Stephens isn’t a regular Grand Slam champ, she’s a humble one:

After an early-season struggle missing out on the ITA Indoor Championships, the NC State women’s team is going full steam ahead now that World No. 94 Diana Shnaider has been cleared to play.

The earthquake in Turkey continues to affect ITF World Tour players, cancelling this week’s events and leaving players stranded for the time being.

Zheng Qinwen continues to rack up the magazine covers in her short career, this time gracing the front of GQ China.

Earmuffs for the kids, but maybe Phoebe Bridgers saw my piece a long time ago about changing the name of Margaret Court Arena?

We’ll discuss some top Super Bowl tweets, but Serena Williams impressed one of the all-time greats of SB commercials with her two alcohol commercials during the telecast. Speaking of the GOAT, she sat down to discuss concerts, the Williams Invitational making a comeback and confirming those unretirement rumors.

Karolina Pliskova? Former World No. 1, Grand Slam finalist and ally!

Tweet of the Week

Any time I can plug an iconic line from Madison Brengle, I will:

Five at The IX: Super Bowl Sunday

This monolouge? I mean *chef’s kiss*

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon