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Casper Ruud and Rafa Nadal during a tense scene in Netflix’s tennis doc, “Break Point.”
In the wake of Netflix releasing the trailer for its PGA Tour docuseries last week, sports fans were delivered a bunch of things, all at once. They were given a date to look forward to: Feb. 15. They were given a cast of characters to think about (Rory McIlroy was a surprise addition). And if they spent any time scrolling around the Netflix interface they were also given a taste of what “Full Swing” might actually look like.
Enter: Break Point.
Box to Box Films, the production company behind “Full Swing,” has concurrently been producing a similar series on professional tennis, titled “Break Point.” The first five episodes dropped just two days after the “Full Swing” trailer, letting golf fans’ imagination run free in how presentation of the two individual sports would stack up.
Having binged the first part of “Break Point,” here are four things we can reasonably expect and get excited about for next month’s release of “Full Swing.”
Every major sports broadcast has progressed over decades, but these days, only minor changes take place in how sports are presented. There are fixed cameras, broadcasters stuck in specific positions. There’s only so much you can see. But “Break Point” shows there are more cameras to be used — like the sky cam above tennis courts — more space to roam about, and tighter, granular details to pay attention to.
I’m talking about the arc of a slicing tennis ball from one corner of the court to another, at net level. The pained faces of family members when defeat is imminent. The ball halting to a stop on a drop shot. Hell, even the slow churn of the retractable roof is entertaining as it ushers itself in the way of the sun.
“Break Point” captures so much of it in slow motion, which only brings heightened respect for the athletes and awareness of everything playing out in full speed on our televisions. We’re going to get a lot of slo-mo in “Full Swing.” Player reactions, fan reactions, a Scottie Scheffler bunker shot at 240 frames per second. The sexy shots, if you will, make binging a pleasant experience. This is sports as art.
For a long time, only players were allowed in PGA Tour locker rooms. Perhaps a journalist could talk with them after rounds were complete, but for the most part locker rooms were sacrosanct. Caddies weren’t even allowed access until just recently. “Full Swing” is going to show just how interesting locker rooms are (or are not!).
One of the delicious scenes of “Break Point” takes place in a private area outside a locker room at the French Open. Casper Ruud waits to be introduced in the final while Rafa Nadal lurks in the background like the boss character of a video game. Nadal whips around the room in a frenzy to stay warm. Ruud stays put, perhaps nervously, occasionally watching Nadal’s movements.
When the PGA Tour released a video from the Sunday of the Canadian Open of Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy moving around each other in the locker room, it was widely praised as the kind of content and access golf fans want to see more of. “Full Swing” is bound to share plenty of that. Netflix shared a screen grab of Scheffler in the workout trailer during Tour Championship week. A quick clip from the trailer showed Ian Poulter launching something at a wooden locker. We might find that what goes on in these areas is more boring than we previously thought. We also might find that’s exactly where the nerves kick in. The lonely calm before the raucous storm of contention.
One necessary aspect of shows like these is time spent on character development. You may know everything there is to know about Scheffler, but viewers new to the scene only know him as That Guy Who Won the Masters. Box to Box has to tell people who is on screen as if they’ve never seen them before. And with a limited number of episodes, there’s only so much time they can spend on, say, the third game of the fourth set in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
“Break Point” focuses tightly on specific players in each episode, like Nick Kyrgios in the first. They spent time in Kyrgios’ childhood home, walking through his bedroom as his mother surveys his broken rackets from past tantrums. In golf, that’s going to be great fodder for understanding the players who don’t share everything in press conferences. We’re going to get an introduction into the deeply analytical habits of Matthew Fitzpatrick. And while we relish in the craziness that was Sahith Theegala contending at the Phoenix Open, it will take plenty of time to explain his rise to that moment. The payoff of both is a better understanding of what’s going on in their heads directly before and after triumph and failure, and how it affects their families, who were filmed by producers throughout.
All of that is to say there are unlimited angles to capture these sports from, and a lot of those angles just result in players making putts or winning points and fist-pumping. These shows are about people first and then the action that defines them. Trust the producers to deliver the good stuff that mattered around the stuff we already know.
The people behind the people take on an important role in “Break Point.” We watch as Kyrgios and his best mate break down what it was like early in Kyrgios’ playing career as he battled mental health struggles and abused alcohol and drugs. We listen in as Taylor Fritz questions where he’d be without his girlfriend, and then get choked up reliving his win at his home tournament in front of his father.
The PGA Tour version of that, until now, is mostly just wives and girlfriends running onto the 18th green after a tournament finishes. With “Full Swing,” we’ll better understand the bedrock relationships that keep the best golfers in the world sane. And the people who keep them pushing. Or the people they crash back in to, mentally broken after a brutal loss.
We’re going to find out if Alayna Finau is as cool as she seems on Instagram. We might get Brooks Koepka’s parents talking about raising their four-time major-winning son. It might include Joel Dahmen’s thoughts on impending fatherhood and a glimpse of his caddie, Geno Bonnallie, when he’s back at home on dad duty. All of it adds depth to the people we watch play this silly sport so well. Sign us all the way up.
Netflix’s PGA Tour show drops in five weeks! Feb. 15, titled Full Swing.
Lotta LIV players involved. Lotta Tour stars. Rory sat for it, which is a lovely surprise. pic.twitter.com/C8Eqe9QnEC
Zak is a writer and host for various GOLF.com video properties and podcasts. Check out his travels on Destination Golf and his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:
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