Throughout history, there have been some pretty solid tennis documentaries released to the public. Players come from all different backgrounds, and getting a chance to relive and experience stories can be extremely intriguing.
With 14 documentaries to choose from, people should find at least a few that are well worth their time. They might not all be 100% traditional documentaries, but they all follow a similar pattern.
The release of yet another documentary on John McEnroe can be a bit polarizing. In 2022, there’s not a lot of new information out on the player. Showtime gives it a try, taking a look at his career with a lot of talking from the man himself.
Documentaries that have a lot of influence from the title character can sometimes be a little too slanted in one direction. It’s still worth watching, even if it seems self-serving at times. He remains a much-discussed player in tennis history, and his continued involvement in the game keeps him in the limelight.
13. Facing Federer
It’s crazy to look back to 2004 and see a documentary on Roger Federer. He just retired from tennis this year, so there’s a lot more to add when more documentaries are done on him at some point.
This documentary tries to focus on the Masters Tour in 2004. It’s interesting to see him as a guy who’s already well-known on tour, but still, not the Roger Federer people know today.
They go into what makes him great at such an early age, and they ponder what could happen in the future. Not getting a follow-up on what happens in tennis later on keeps it a little low on the list.
12. This is What They Want
Tennis players in their late-30s aren’t supposed to have much left in the tank. Few gave Jimmy Connors a chance to make a run at the 1991 US Open, but he captivated the crowd by going all the way to the semifinals. Although he would lose to Jim Courier, it was an exciting two weeks to follow.
In this documentary, they go into a bit more detail on what made this such a great time. Connors was long thought of as a favorite, but playing the role of underdog made him very endearing late in his career. Even though he didn’t win, it might be one of the most important tournaments for his legacy.
11. Love Means Zero
As cliché as the saying might be, Love Means Zero is a natural name for a documentary. This is about the legendary Nick Bollettieri as he coaches so many future champions.
Players like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Serena Williams, and Monica Seles all relied heavily on Bollettieri early on in his career to get to where they wanted to be.
There’s some mild controversy in the documentary as there’s a look at some of the tactics used by coaches to gain an edge. It was a sign of the times, and a lot of coaches have based at least some of their instruction on this.
10. John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
John McEnroe has had a few documentaries about him throughout the years, and this relatively new one from 2018 is nice to watch. Director Julien Faraut looks at not only the peak of his career, but his push for perfection along the way. One of his most challenging losses was in the 1984 French Open, and the documentary takes a look at that.
The amount of never-before-seen footage and interviews make this a nice watch after so many people have seen documentaries on McEnroe before. It puts him in a slightly different light, which is always nice decades after he played his final match.
9. 7 Days in Hell
Although this is a little bit different than every other option on this list, it makes the cut because it is somewhat inspired by the marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010. 7 Days in Hell is a mockumentary, premiering in 2015 and put together by HBO.
The film itself received fairly good ratings, and tennis enthusiasts liked how accurate it felt from beginning to end. Some can’t get past the fictional side of it, but a star-studded cast should be enough to capture the attention of viewers.
8. McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice
Looking back, John McEnroe and Björn Borg formed the perfect rivalry. They had two different personalities, and they met up in several big matches to help make the sport of tennis exciting.
This documentary, put together by HBO Sports, dives into all they accomplished as a perfect matchup. Most people were on one side or the other, rooting them on through a boom for tennis worldwide. Reliving it with a documentary catering to both sides of the rivalry is a great way to learn a few untold stories.
7. Strokes of Genius
Tennis fans can argue about the greatest match in the history of the sport for hours, but the 2008 Wimbledon Final has to make the shortlist.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battled it out in an epic matchup, and the five-hour match had a bunch of twists and turns.
Strokes of Genius uses actual footage to tell the story, but there’s so much more added to it that makes it a true documentary.
The rivalry lived on until this year when Federer finally announced he was stepping away from the game. Unlike other sports rivalries, the two always had a high level of respect for each other.
6. Untold: Breaking Point
When Netflix started to jump into the documentary game, it was only a matter of time before they approached tennis as a topic.
In 2021, Untold: Breaking Point released while focusing on Mardy Fish’s career. He’s not the biggest name in tennis history, but he had a very unique story of rising and falling at the highest levels.
What makes this documentary different is that he opens up about a severe anxiety disorder as well as a heart condition.
He kept a lot of this information quiet during his career, but now he’s hoping to spread awareness that some people might not be as alone as they think.
5. Andy Murray: Resurfacing
In 2019, a documentary discussing Andy Murray’s recovery from injuries became available. From 2017 to 2019, Murray went from one of the true stars in the game to a guy who didn’t know if he would be able to play competitive tennis again.
A lot of the documentary focuses on the overall approach of Murray as a player. He is very locked in with his rehab, much the same way that he plays the game of tennis. It also dives into how much of a struggle it is for players once they start to age and still want to prove something out on the court.
Murray’s still playing professional tennis to this day, so he’s bounced back to some degree. However, he’s never been able to recapture the same level of play he had before injuries started to pile up.
4. The Journeymen
Being a top tennis player in the world seems like a glamorous opportunity, but it’s not always what it appears to be. Those who aren’t stars are doing everything they can just to survive on tour. This gives sports fans an idea of how much hard work goes into just being a fringe professional tennis player.
As a pair of journeymen, Mark Keil and Geoff Grant have to be extremely resourceful in coming up with ways to keep their tennis dream alive. It’s a short documentary that is under an hour long, but it’s a great relic from a time when not everything happened in front of a camera.
3. Venus and Serena
This documentary came out on the Williams Sisters and was released in 2012. That means there’s a decade of the story missing.
It’s not the most recent, but this one takes an up-close look at how both players beat the odds and became number one worldwide (even though they had plenty of issues along the way).
They are two of the most inspirational and memorable players in tennis history. The Williams sisters have been playing since they were teenagers, but it is their attitude toward life that has set them apart from all other players.
The influence these two women had on future generations cannot be understated as well. By the time both retire from professional tennis after more than two decades of success, it will be nearly impossible to ever replace them.
In 2007, Unstrung took a look at the junior tennis world and everything that goes with it. Like youth sports in general, a lot of twists and turns for players, as well as their families, goes into development. What makes tennis different is that it’s an individual sport, so players with the most resources often come out on top.
The payoff is huge, as guys like Andy Roddick, Jim, Currier, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras all show in the movie. However, countless tennis players never reach expectations and burn out of the sport altogether. Seeing both the highs and the lows is intriguing for viewers.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were two female tennis players, who seemed like opposites at first glance. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova found a way to become friends over the years, even though they felt like rivals.
This documentary is pretty short at under an hour, but it goes into a rivalry that lasted 80 matches. Seeing how they constantly crossed paths and became such a big part of sports, in general, was huge for the game of tennis.
ESPN doesn’t dive into a ton of tennis documentaries, but this one brought in viewers who don’t normally pay attention to the sport.