The Top 26 Tennis Documentaries [2024 Update]

Federer’s finesse. Serena’s serve. Borg’s backhand… McEnroe’s meltdowns? Iconic.

Djokovic? Dominating, every time.

Or Nadal’s knees knowing no surrender?

Murray’s miraculous Wimbledon win… Chris Evert’s endless elegance on clay… Agassi’s audacious Australian achievements.

Jimmy Connors’ jests, Djokovic’s determined dominance, Navratilova’s nine grand slams.

The best match ever is here. And so is the best tennis point every (me thinks).

McEnroe backs me up (mostly). I wonder what my Fire Island tennis friends are going to say!

I’ve reviewed 26 tennis docs so far and 2 bonuses at the bottom.

Enjoy!

Reminder: I score most of the docs on a 1 to 100 scale. In some cases (e.g. where I couldn’t watch much of the doc, I use an IMDB score).

1) Strokes of Genius

98/100

The epic battle between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final 2008. Best match ever?

McEnroe says it is (even though many call his match against Borg (see “McEnroe Borg: Fire and Ice” below.) the best match ever.

Andrew Douglas (known for “Searching for Sugar Man”) crafts a tale that runs 98 thrilling minutes…

Genius, rivalry, and raw emotion. Nadal’s killer topspin. Federer’s balletic grace. An age-old debate (27 vs 22 then).

You see, it’s more than just tennis. It’s about legends.

Roger’s finesse. Rafa’s resilience.

The doc zooms into their practice sessions, locker room jitters…The clash, the rain delay, the ever-ticking clock.

Midnight tennis, anyone?

I chuckled when the doc showed Federer’s shock at Nadal’s pirate pants… Classic!

Streaming Options:

Check back here for other rental/buy options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/strokes-of-genius

2) McEnroe Borg: Fire and Ice

96/100

McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice? More like “tennis’ rock ‘n’ roll.” Directed by Rex Miller (known for Althea), this 60-minute doc uncovers the sizzling rivalry between John McEnroe and Björn Borg.

Remember “You cannot be serious!”? That’s Johnny Mac, folks. Ice-cool Borg vs. fiery McEnroe… tennis never saw such a clash! Dive into Wimbledon ’80. A classic match. McEnroe’s tantrums? Legendary. Borg’s zen-like calm? The doc’s zenith? The tie-breaker. Breath-holding tension.

One standout? The interviews. McEnroe spills, Borg reflects.

Missed opportunity? Borg’s sudden retirement. We needed more on that.

Tennis fan or not, you’ll get sucked in. It’s not just about serves and volleys. It’s passion. It’s drama. It’s tennis’ own soap opera.

I watched it on HBO Max but it’s off there now. The only place I can find any of it is here (38 of the 60minutes) at https://youtu.be/0jWRo_MnTvs. But you might check out https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/mcenroe-borg-fire-and-ice in case other streaming options get added.

3) American Masters: Billie Jean King

95/100

Talk about a game-changer. Directed by James Erskine (known for Sachin: A Billion Dreams), “American Masters: Billie Jean King”? is a 90-minute doc on the life of tennis legend, Billie Jean King.

King’s rise in the ’70s? Stellar. But her fight for gender equality? That’s the real deal.

Ever seen Battle of the Sexes? You’ll lap this up. King’s victory over Bobby Riggs is more than a match. It’s a statement. Packed with interviews, this doc takes us behind the scenes. The pressures, the battles, the triumphs… it’s all there.

The highlight? King’s candid confessions. Heartfelt. Honest. Raw.

But… where’s the beef on her early life? We needed that. But hey, can’t have it all.

It’s tennis history with a side of women’s lib.

Rent it on AppleTV at https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/american-masters-billie-jean-king/umc.cmc.5z19hrcil5afjuhiwh74rwo9e

4) Unstrung

94/100

Go to Google Play’s page at https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=ZBVwELy_V9w to see the trailer (it doesn’t appear to be on YouTube or anywhere else)

Image from Google Play — Trailer is here: https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=ZBVwELy_V9w

“Unstrung”… And how! Tennis great Jim Courier teams with Director Rob Klug (previously wooed us with “A Decade Under the Influence”) to take us into the less-glamorous trenches of tennis.

Running for a crisp 95 minutes, the doc digs deep into the journey before the Grand Slam tournaments? It’s raw and real.

Eight juniors. One dream. Wimbledon, the Australian Open? Not there yet. It’s about Futures and Challenger events, folks.

That moment Sam Querrey questioned his choices? Tough one.

The struggle? Real. The injuries, the break points, the aspirations… all of it laid bare.

I watched this is on ESPN at one point but it now appears that it’s not on any streaming channel. Sorry!

5) Andy Murray: Resurfacing

93/100

Andy Murray: Resurfacing? More like a deep dive into a champ’s psyche. This doc, clocking in at 108 minutes, is not just about tennis. It’s about grit, pain, and bouncing back.

Directed by Olivia Cappuccini (known for her intimate storytelling), it showcases Andy Murray’s battle with his hip injury. And trust me, it’s more gripping than most Wimbledon finals…well, not the Federer/Nadal and McEnroe/Borg matches that rank above 🙂

We see Murray. The player. The husband. The dad. Aching, pushing, breaking, healing… it’s raw. One scene where he talks to his team post-surgery?

I just wished we got more… behind-the-scenes training. That nitty-gritty. But the doc’s sincerity? Spot on.

Ever felt knocked down? Watch this. Feel inspired. But if you want just smashes and serves, maybe scroll on.

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video at https://www.amazon.com/Andy-Murray-Resurfacing/dp/B081TKTKJR

6) The Journeymen

92/100

“The Journeymen” is gritty truth. Ever thought about those tennis players just outside the spotlight’s glare? Geoff Grant and Mark Keil slice open the tennis world we seldom see in this 86-minute doc.

Remember “Chasing Tyson” for boxing? This is its tennis cousin. Keil, Grant, and others hustle on courts less seen, chasing points instead of fame. Riveting? You bet. One scene, with Grant debating another Challenger event, feels… raw and intimate.

However, I craved more childhood backstories. Tantalizing hints were there…

Who’d adore this? Tennis purists. Those hungry for real stories. Not for fans seeking just glitz. Few glamour shots here (though there are star cameos of Andre Agaassi, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic.

But, what’s unique with Journeymen is the unfamous and their determination, grit, and grind.

Here’s a free link to The Journeymen (thanks, Ringworm1514 on Reddit!) at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bgSqTCAvweAhk3wjmJH2Mte3adfeplMs/edit

7) Untold: Breaking Point

92/100

Directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way (known for “Wild Wild Country” (my #1 cult doc from https://dailydoc.com/best-cult-documentaries/!), this 79-minute doc focuses on Mardy Fish.

He’s not just another tennis pro. Fish rose to stardom, gunning for top spots… battling more than just opponents. And then he faced his bigges tfoe: mental health.

2012, U.S. Open. Fish’s withdrawal? Echoes Björn Borg’s departure in 1979… but darker.

Two scenes stand out: Fish’s locker room breakdown post match. And his candid confessions about anxiety attacks.

Sport isn’t just physical. Mind games play a part. An emotional rollercoaster? Yep. And boy, does it deliver! But the big miss? Not enough on tennis’ toxic masculinity… an oversight?

For fans? An insightful treat. Not a tennis buff? Doesn’t matter. This is human struggle, up close. But haters of heartfelt tales? Steer clear.

I watched it on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81026434

8) Citizen Ashe

91/100

Who was Arthur Ashe?” You’ll find out in this 95-minute doc, directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard (famed for “MLK/FBI”).

Ashe wasn’t just the Wimbledon champ. Civil rights activist? Yep. AIDS advocate? Absolutely.

One scene? Ashe in Johannesburg, 1973. Racism. Apartheid. Tennis? In this mix? Risky… but he showed up. Played. Made a statement. Then there’s the 1968 U.S. Open win… Ashe’s calm amidst racial tension is awesome.

And the highlight? Ashe’s 1988 AIDS diagnosis… Society’s stigma met Ashe’s grace. His response? A legacy of education and activism.

This doc paints a vivid picture, but a slight letdown? Not enough on his coaching impact… an oversight perhaps?

Tennis fan or not, watch it. It’s history. It’s heart. But if you’re after pure tennis action? Maybe it’s not your game.

You can rent it on a bunch of the streamers. Check here for the full list: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/citizen-ashe-2021

9) Break Point

91/100

“Break Point”, a Netflix collaboration with ATP and WTA, is a revelation.

Ever wanted a courtside seat? 10 episodes, two riveting parts.

We see the sweat, tears, and sheer dedication behind every serve and volley.

The first part boasts five episodes spotlighting the Australian Open, Indian Wells Masters, Madrid Open, and French Open.

The second chunk, with another set of five episodes, turns its lens on Wimbledon, Eastbourne International, Queen’s Club, U.S. Open, WTA Finals, and ATP Finals

Players profiled include Stefanos Tsitsipas and Paula Badosa. Félix Auger-Aliassime’s resilience.

Nick Kyrgios’s antics. Ons Jabeur’s finesse.

Witness Taylor Fritz’s ambition or Maria Sakkari’s grit.

All under one roof.

I wished they had dug into their personal lives more (liked Netflix did in the golf docuseries “Big Swing”.

Watch it on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81569920

10) Love Means Zero

91/100

I love Nick Bollettieri, “baby”!

This doc dives deep into the world of tennis, but it’s not the athletes under the spotlight… it’s the coach.

Meet Nick Bollettieri, the mastermind behind tennis icons like Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova. Check out the cast:

heck out the cast of this doc:

  • Andre Agassi
  • Jim Courier
  • Pete Sampras
  • Boris Becker
  • Goran Ivanišević
  • Julio Moros
  • Fritz Nau
  • Jane Pauley
  • Brooke Shields
  • Barbara Becker
  • Andrés Gómez
  • Kathleen Horvath
  • Martin Blackman
  • Bud Collins
  • Carling Bassett-Seguso
  • John F. Bassett

But if you think this is a feel-good mentor story… brace yourself.

The doc unravels Nick’s cutthroat methods. Results? Yes. But at what cost? His approach: ruthless. His relationship with proteges? Complicated. It’s tennis… but it’s also a mental game. His academy? Famed, but with shadows.

This doc would have been interesting enough had it it be JUST about Agassi and Courier.

A standout? The raw interviews. Agassi’s revelations… they sting. Remember the Agassi-Bollettieri rift? They delve. And it’s tense. Ever thought about the pressure these players face? The relentless drive for perfection… and the man pushing them there? It’s all here.

If “The Last Dance” intrigued you, “Love Means Zero” will grip you. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Drama? Off the charts.

I wished for more on Nick’s early life. His motivations? They scratch the surface, but I wanted more.

But if you love tennis or high-level coaching, you’ll love it.

Watch it on Paramount+ at https://www.paramountplus.com/movies/video/5qP9c46pbxbGXSr_MmkpF46CBUPNgnZL/ or Showtime or Fubo. See https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/love-means-zero for more options.

11) John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

91/100

This doc might just be the best tennis doc you’ve never heard of.

It’s called “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection” (2018, 95 minutes), and it’s a doc that’s as unconventional as the man himself.

Director Julien Faraut takes us back to the 1984 French Open, where McEnroe was at the top of his game (and his rage).

Using a treasure trove of 16mm footage shot by cinematographer Gil de Kermadec, Faraut gets up close and personal with the lefty legend.

You see every serve, volley, and tantrum in glorious slow motion.

It’s narrated by French actor Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and features commentary from the one and only Bud Collins, the #1 voice in tennis.

Faraut plays around with the documentary form, using vintage instructional movies (both live-action and animated).

The archived TV essay on McEnroe by Collins alone is worth the watch.

You’ll love the music too (e.g. “Amadeus” during the dissection of McEnroe’s play and infamous arguments with officials).

Watch “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection” for free on Kanopy (with library card or college ID) or for free on Daily Motion (here), Tubi, Redbox and PlutoTV (those have ads).

You can also rent it for $ on the big guys like Amazon, AppleTV et al. Check here for all streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/john-mcenroe-in-the-realm-of-perfection

12) The Netflix Slam (Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcatraz)

IMDB Score: 8/10

Well, well, well. Tennis on Netflix. What a world.

You’ve got to hand it to the streaming folks – they know how to put on a show.

“The Netflix Slam” served up a tasty live matchup between the legendary Rafa Nadal and young phenom Carlos Alcaraz.

It was Spain vs. Spain, master vs. apprentice, old guard vs. new school.

The star power was almost as impressive as the tennis.

Courtside, you had Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones ( with hubby Michael Douglas) and Colin Kaepernick.

And Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick did the commentary.

As for the match itself (SPOILER ALERT) Rafa and Carlos did not disappoint.

The kid took down the legend in a nail-biter tiebreak that had the sold-out crowd of nearly 10,000 on the edge of their seats.

Chants of “Vamos, Rafa!” and “Carlito!” filled the Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena, adding to the electric atmosphere.

The Netflix brass was out in force, too. Co-CEO Greg Peters, chief content officer Bela Bajaria, chief marketing officer Marian Lee, and VP of nonfiction sports Gabe Spitzer were all there to shake hands and soak in the spectacle.

Watch “it on:”The Netflix Slam” on, well, Netflix (of course) at https://www.netflix.com/title/81739957

13) Roger Federer: The Reunion

90/100

From Switzerland’s snow-capped Alps to the vibrant streets of Basel, and then to the soul-stirring landscapes of South Africa — Roger’s maternal homeland — “Roger Federer. The Reunion” is a visual feast. Beyond the tennis courts, we’re given a passport to Federer’s world.

Starting in Wimbledon’s revered Centre Court, we journey through Basel’s nostalgic alleyways, feel the tranquility of Lake Geneva, and embrace the warmth of a South African sunset.

Witness Federer, away from the limelight, connecting with his roots in Johannesburg, practicing on Dubai’s rooftop courts, and delving into intimate moments in Zürich with family. It’s Roger, the legend, and the man.

The crescendo? A poignant reunion in South Africa’s Cape Town with his earliest mentors. Goosebumps, anyone? Their heartfelt exchange? Simply unforgettable.

Echoes of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse”, but with Swiss and South African hues. Heartfelt. Raw. Real.

Bill Gates even shows up as Federer’s doubles partner in “The Match For Africa 5”. Surprisingly good volleys by Gates!

Embark from the peaks of the Alps to the heartbeats of South African drums.

The only place I could find “Roger Federer: The Reunion” still on is Vimeo for $6.99 (https://vimeo.com/store/ondemand/rent/404371).

14) Boom! Boom! The World Vs Boris Becker

89/100

McEnroe: “He was like the Michael Jordan of Germany”

The echoing “Boom! Boom!” (2-part docuseries) serves as more than just a catchy title; it’s the essence of Boris Becker’s fiery journey.

“Boom! Boom!” takes us to the heart of Wimbledon, where Becker’s youthful prowess shone at 17. And the doc shows riveting clashes with arch-rivals like Agassi in ’89.

But what really hits is the doc’s deep dive into Becker’s life off the court. The bustling streets of Monaco, a tax haven, set the stage for Becker’s financial woes and legal battles. Becker, amidst the opulent casinos, grapples with accusations of bankruptcy, a fall from grace that resonates.

His marriage to Barbara Feltus, an Afro-American model, becomes a lens into the prejudices of 90s society. Their love story, against a backdrop of racial bias, especially in Becker’s homeland, is poignant and unsettling.

One scene in Berlin – Becker and Barbara, hand in hand, facing a sea of paparazzi flashbulbs – captures it all. Love, defiance, and a statement against societal norms.

Then there’s that deep introspection in a Düsseldorf bistro, where Becker confronts his misdemeanors and seeks redemption.

For those reminiscing about Becker’s on-court magic with Agassi in ’89? It’s here, and it’s riveting.

Similar to “The Trials of Oscar Pistorius” in depth and introspection, “Boom! Boom!” is a rollercoaster of emotion. It’s more than tennis; it’s life, love, and the repercussions of fame.

Watch Boom! Boom! on AppleTV at https://tv.apple.com/us/episode/part-one-triumph/umc.cmc.3o9mo11an1pc640cx8o9cziww

15) Gold Balls

IMDB Score: 9/1

“Gold Balls” (2020) is a delightful docthat follows the senior tennis circuit.

It’s where players over 80 chase that elusive golden ball.

Directed by Kate Keckler Dandel, the 90-minute doc is a love letter to tennis and the indomitable spirit of its most seasoned practitioners.

We meet characters like 87-year-old Bill, a former pro with a wicked serve; 85-year-old Sheila, a cancer survivor who credits tennis with keeping her alive; and 81-year-old John, who’s been playing for six decades.

These players are serious competitors, training hard and leaving it all on the court.

The only place I see to watch”Gold Balls” is on Amazon (for $3.99) but check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/gold-balls

16) Billy Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer

89/100

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (1973). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Billie_Jean_King_and_Bobby_Riggs_1973.jpg

If the American Masters Billy Jean King doc didn’t give you enough, here’s another solid 60 minutes on the tennis and advocacy leader.

The doc captures the 1970s – an era where women athletes hardly earned their due. King’s Battle of the Sexes? A monumental match (1973).

Remember when she tackled Bobby Riggs? It wasn’t just a game; it was a statement. She was 29, battling biases… and acing them.

This doc? Shows more than just her matches. Her choices, decisions… her voice. King’s confession of her sexuality? A daunting challenge in her era… Yet, she owned it. She became a symbol, an advocate… a pioneer.

“I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match.” The weight on her shoulders… immense!

If you loved “Battle of the Sexes”, you’ll appreciate this deep dive. Ever heard of the Original 9? You should. Billie’s bold move, signing that $1 contract, launched women’s pro tennis.

Yet, was everything covered? Nope. Wished there was more on her personal life post-tennis… but that’s a minor gripe.

Who wouldn’t love this doc? Maybe those who think tennis is just about rackets and balls.

Watch it on HBO Max at https://play.max.com/movie/ae41b4f1-e9c6-4c3d-a105-5df8bf2e5941

17) Break Point: a Davis Cup Story

88/100

Intrigued by tennis legends and their tales? Dive into “Break Point: A Davis Cup Story”. It’s a story of passion, rivalry, and teamwork. Liked “The Last Dance”? You’ll love “Break Point”.

This doc places legends like Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray center stage. But there’s more than just racquets and rallies. It’s their stories, ambitions, and, sometimes, heartbreaks. How does Federer’s elegance fare against Nadal’s ferocity when national pride’s on the line?

Witness Djokovic’s struggle to rally Serbia to victory. Feel the weight on Nadal’s shoulders as he represents Spain. And don’t miss out on Murray, battling injuries yet fighting for Britain’s pride.

The real show-stealer? The backstage drama. Argentinian captain, Gaudio, maneuvering his players. French veteran, Tsonga, pep-talking rookies. Scenes you won’t forget? Nadal consoling a devastated Djokovic. Or Murray’s emotional win after a comeback.

And then there’s the 2019 Madrid face-off. Pure adrenaline. Argentina clashing with Spain. Emotions overflow. Every game feels like a final.

But, did they brush past the Davis Cup’s rich history? Maybe. A nod to legends like Becker or Sampras wouldn’t hurt.

Yet, “Break Point” stands tall. Real-life drama, iconic players, and matches that’ll have you on edge. Tennis isn’t just a game here—it’s war.

I don’t see it streaming anywhere right now. But check here periodically and it might get added: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/break-point-a-davis-cup-story

18) This is What They Want

88/100

I couldn’t find a trailer of “This is What They Want” but here’s some great footage of Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.

Watch the 2nd point (at :47) — McEnroe called it the greatest point he’d ever seen at the U.S. Open.

“This is What They Want” zooms in on Jimmy Connors’ legendary 1991 U.S. Open run. Connors, then 39 (whoa!), wasn’t just playing tennis. He was conjuring magic. Against all odds. Every match, a David vs. Goliath battle, with Jimmy seemingly always on the ropes.

Who can forget his epic face-offs with younger talents like Aaron Krickstein and Patrick McEnroe? His mantra? “Fight till the end.” And boy, did he.

The doc takes us to New York, right into the heart of Flushing Meadows. The roaring crowds. The energy. The city that never sleeps, enthralled by a tennis maestro refusing to fade.

The interviews are solid. Krickstein’s perspective (years later) on that unforgettable match and McEnroe dissecting his tussle with Connors.

It’s a story of determination, resilience, and an undying will to entertain. A man way past his prime, telling the world, “Count me out? Think again.”

The defining moment? Connors bellowing at the chair umpire. “This is what they want!” Pointing to the audience, soaking in their cheers. And he was right.

Missed details? Some. A deeper dive into his earlier career, perhaps. A hint of his famed rivalry with Borg. But that’s just being picky.

Get it on ESPN+ at https://www.espn.com/watch/film/f70fc0f5-bfe0-433a-a6c3-9a65e21eae8d/this-is-what-they-want or rent it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/LxneFRqRo7E.

19) Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score

87/100

At a brisk 93 minutes, this tale chronicles Guillermo Vilas’s chase for the recognition he deserved. Remember that year, 1977? It was when Vilas (age 25) stormed the courts. Buenos Aires? Check. Paris? Double-check.

Now, Eduardo Puppo? Journalist. Obsessed. He’s got charts, stats, and a deep desire to fix past injustices. But, hey, what’s the tennis world without a bit of… intrigue?

Puppo teams up with Marian Ciulpan – a math whiz from Romania. They uncover, through sleepless nights and endless data, that Vilas was robbed of his World No. 1 ranking.

A top moment? Vilas confronting the ATP. His eyes? Furious yet pleading. “Why am I not No.1?” Haunting.

Marian Ciulpan (remember “Calculating Ada”?) uses raw data… pure math. Yet, the ATP’s recognition of Vilas’s ranking? Missing. Absent. But why?

Ever hear of the “grass-court bias”? Yup, that’s in here too. Viewers? Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions… frustrations, triumphs, and mysteries.

Tiny gripe? Where was the deep dive on Vilas’s training regimen? I would have loved that.

Who might not be on board for this doc? If data-crunching makes your eyes glaze AND you don’t like tennis, skip this one.

Will justice (and data) prevail?

Watch it on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81037873

20) Naomi Osaka

IMDB Score: 6.3

The docuseries “Naomi Osaka” (2021, 110 minutes) is as much about mental health as it is tennis.

Directed by Garrett Bradley (“Time”), the doc is a portrait of a young woman facing the pressures of fame, identity, and the weight of expectation.

You probably know Naomi Osaka the tennis player – the four-time Grand Slam champion, the powerful serve, the fierce competitor who became the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles.

If you’re a tennis fan like me, you’ll love the on-court action (including footage of Osaka’s wins at the 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open, 2020 US Open, and 2021 Australian Open).

You get a behind-the-scenes look at Osaka’s powerful serve and aggressive baseline play and her mental toughness.

That might sound strange when she later suffers mental health issues — but you don’t win Grand Slams without a strong mental game).

The docuseries also introduces us to Naomi the person.

She’s a (then) 23-year-old, biracial daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father.

She’s a shy introvert thrust into the global spotlight after she stuns Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open (she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title).

The media scrutiny gets heavy at that point.

Before you know it, she skips a mandatory press conference ($15,000 fine) at the 2021 French Open.

And then she withdraws from the tourney, citing mental health concerns.

But this tennis docuseries shows Osaka is surely a maverick.

Did you know she relinquished her US citizenship to represent Japan in the 2021 Olympics?

And she put “mental health” in the spotlight in a way that perhaps no athlete ever has.

Watch the Naomi Osaka” docuseries on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81128594

21) McEnroe

87/100

“McEnroe” (98 minutes) serves up the man behind the scream.

Late 1970s and early 1980s — he’s the king of tennis.

Only male player to be #1 in singles and doubles…at the same dang time.

Then there’s the attitude… “I’m the best!

Why doesn’t it feel great?” Yeahhh!

A standout scene: Billie Jean King (you know, Battle of the Sexes) spilling tea — analyzing McEnroe’s game.

The big question is why Mac is so angry? A tale from his bro Patrick gives a hint:

The McEnroe dad brags about finishing second in law school.

And mom’s retort when the McEnroe boys finish second? “Who was first?”

Watch it on Showtime at https://www.sho.com/titles/3496614/mcenroe

22) Venus and Serena

85/100

A 99-minute deep dive into the Williams’ dynasty.

These aren’t just tennis stars. They’re legends. This doc peels back the curtain. Introducing you to Venus and Serena…off the court. .

From Compton to Wimbledon. Humble beginnings to smashing records. Sisters? More like dynamic duo. The ascent? Dramatic. The challenges? Daunting.

Highlights? A heart-to-heart between the sisters. And those training sessions with their dad? Intense.

Serena: “My parents told me I’d be number one in the world. I was brainwashed”. .

The 2001 Indian Wells controversy? It’s there.

Venus’s diagnosis is an emotional scene.

Missed mark? I’d love a deeper dive into their fashion empire. Iconic.

For the tennis nerds and sibling saga lovers, this one’s for you.

Watch it on Amazon’s Prime Video at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/0IQWGOX2FZ0V5IJUBYHR69PS28/ref=atv_dl_rdr, Fubo (https://www.fubo.tv/welcome/program/MV004635140000/venus-and-serena) or Hoopla (free with a library card) at https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11622902

23) Men With Balls

IMDB Score: 7.5

I recently discovered called “Men with Balls” (2013, 68 minutes), or as it’s originally titled, “Besence Open.”

Directed by Kristóf Kovács, this doc takes us to the remote Hungarian village of Besence, where 99% of the largely Roma population is unemployed.

But wait, there’s hope!

Enter the village’s energetic mayor, József Ignácz.

He’s determined to put Besence on the map.

He applies for every EU grant he can get his hands on, and lo and behold, he scores funding for a bio-gardening project and… wait for it… a tennis court!

Tennis? In a village where most people have never even seen a racket?

The doc has a playful tone, with folksy music and well-composed shots of village life.

You feel like you’re right there, sipping pálinka with the locals.

Watch “Men With Balls” on GuideDoc (with a $7.99 per month subscription) at https://guidedoc.tv/documentary/men-with-balls-documentary-film/.

Thanks to Chris Cagle for pointing this out

24) Unmatched

84/100

“Unmatched” is 51 minutes into the world of Evert and Navratilova. Unlikely friends? Fierce competitors. Their meetings? The 80s? Dominated. Evert (18 Grand Slam singles titles). Navratilova (18 as well). Head to head? 80 times (Martina edges her 43 to 37).

A scene that resonates? Their first face-off. The nervousness Their personal struggles off-court? Equally compelling. Navratilova’s brave coming out? She probably doesn’t get enough credit for that — changed sports forever.

Greatest takeaway? Their unique relationship. Fierce on court. Fondness off it. It’s “Rocky meets When Harry Met Sally”.

Got a nitpick though. The focus sometimes sways too far from tennis. It’s the sport that brought them together, right? Would’ve loved some more play-by-play analysis.

Lovers of tennis tales, grab your racquets. Or, for those in it for pure human connection – this doc’s got your ticket.

ESPN+ subscribers can watch it here: https://www.espn.com/watch/film/09a0ea00-b491-4f88-911d-b19c71b03ccf/unmatched; or buy it on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/7eDGNAw97XM

25) Being Serena

83/100

The “Being Serena” doc is not the Serena you see smashing aces. It’s 180 minutes of motherhood-meets-tennis icon life.

The doc unravels her life. On-court battles? Sure.

Serena Williams. 23 Grand Slam titles. Tennis powerhouse. But this doc? Shows her vulnerable side. But it’s the off-court drama that steals the show. The birth of her daughter (Olympia).. Health scares. Marriage. Comebacks.

Standout scene? Serena in the hospital. Post-childbirth complications. Scared. A stark contrast to the triumphant queen on Wimbledon’s grass. And, there’s Vogue’s Anna Wintour giving wedding fashion advice. Why not!?

Missed opportunity? A deep dive into Serena’s childhood. The Compton days. It’s a tale for another day, perhaps.

Your thing? If you’re into stories about perseverance, motherhood, and yes, tennis. But, if slow-paced emotional doc dramas aren’t your jam, maybe skip.

Watch it on HBO’s Max at https://play.max.com/show/63278006-1a93-47ee-8599-73bf00065ee1

26) Somay Ku: A Uganda Tennis Story

IMDB Score: 9.1 (22 votes)

“SOMAY KU” (2008, 90 minutes) follows the story of Patrick Olobo, Uganda’s top-ranked tennis player.

Patrick grew up in the middle of a devastating civil war in Uganda.

When he was just four years old, rebels decimated his family’s farm and murdered his brother.

This guy’s got grit.

He survived a harrowing childhood, a stint in a miserable camp for the internally displaced, and a stubborn desire to make something of himself.

And what did he choose? Tennis.

In a country where most people have never even seen a racket.

The doc premiered on The Tennis Channel in 2008 where it screened 40 times over the next year.

It won Best Documentary at The Malibu International Film Festival that same year.

I don’t see anywhere to stream “Somay Ku” but you can reach the director Rex Miller through his web site at https://www.rexpix.com/somay-ku

Tennis Docs Coming Later in 2024!:

Roger Federer’s Last 12 Days

Amazon’s Prime Video announced in February 2024 that they’re in production on a Roger Federer doc.

The doc, which is set to premiere exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries worldwide, is being helmed by some serious heavyweights.

Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia and co-director Joe Sabia, who apparently started this whole thing as a home video project with Federer himself.

The doc features interviews with Federer’s legendary rivals and close friends Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray.

Federer himself admits that he’s usually a pretty private guy, but he’s opening up like never before in this doc.

“We captured so many powerful moments, and it transformed into a deeply personal journey,” he said. “I am happy to be partnering with Prime Video because of their vast global reach and significant presence in the film industry.”

The untitled documentary is being produced by Kapadia and George Chignell under the Lafcadia Productions banner.

I’ll update here when I know the date!

American Son (30 for 30 on Michael Chang)

“American Son” showcases a defining moment in sports history, tracing the extraordinary path of Michael Chang.

He’s the young tennis sensation whose rise to prominence peaked with his astonishing defeat of Ivan Lendl at the 1989 French Open.

The doc explores Chang’s upbringing, molded by his family’s immigrant story, his meteoric ascent in the world of tennis, and the hurdles he overcame to attain triumph.

It’s directed by Jay Caspian Kang and Executive Produced by ESPN Films and Words + Pictures.

A Docuseries Mentioning Tennis

In Search of Greatness (Serena Williams)

87/100

Here’s a bonus. Even though it’s not a pure tennis doc, “In Search of Greatness” has great documentary footage of Serena Williams including interviews.

The first part on Serena starts here: https://youtu.be/sh0jNbcLGDA?t=1606 (sorry, it might have some ads).

You can watch all of Search of Greatness for free on Kanopy (with library card) at https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/search-greatness-0; Peacock (with ads) at https://www.peacocktv.com/watch-online/movies/in-search-of-greatness/9d3aab91-afc7-3f8d-8505-37170745bfd1; YouTube (with ads) at https://youtu.be/sh0jNbcLGDA

Thanks for reading!

-Rob