Amidst the icy grip of winter, while the crisp air deters even the most ardent tennis enthusiasts, let's take a more gentle approach to training your athletic spirit. For those who shiver at the thought of braving the chill yet yearn for the echo of bouncing balls, we offer a warm refuge: tennis-based watches to thaw the winter blues.
Swap your racket for a remote, as we present a curated selection of films, pulled together to keep your head in the game during the off-season (and to distract from the festive chaos).
Wimbledon by Richard Loncraine
A true, dumb, and fun guilty pleasure of a rom-com. It’s Paul Bettany. It’s Kirsten Dunst. They’re a cliché competitive love story in the simplest, and best, of ways, both in their emotional relationships and on the court; one rejuvenates the others love for the game and bla bla bla. Use this as an opening segway to lure family and friends into more deep cuts of tennis films.
Battle Of The Sexes by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton
A mind-opening movie which avoids becoming a hype machine or being sucked into the weird media circus around the main match. Instead, the focus is on the participants, the emotional stakes, and what King's win means. Battle Of The Sexes covers a lot of territory as a portrayal of women's rights and the sexual revolution of the 1970s, as well as an appropriate homage to Billie Jean-King.
The Realm of Perfection by Julien Faraut
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a tennis ball subjected to McEnroe's infamous tantrums, this documentary might just be your therapy session. Picture this: you're diving headfirst into the world of tennis with the charmingly obsessive John McEnroe as your guide. The film documents his matches, his on-court antics, and his ability to make you question the sanity of anyone who willingly chooses a life filled with the living hell that life as a professional tennis player can be. A 1980’s film essay that revisits 16mm footage of John McEnroe during the 1984 Roland-Garros French Open.
Citizen Ashe by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard
Along the lines of ‘King Richard’ from the previous year (another one for the list), this uncomplicated documentary pays justice to the life of legendary Arthue Ashe's many interesting tales in a very informative and inspiring manner. Both films look at Black excellence in a sport that was once blind to the subject. What makes this movie so captivating is how it focuses on how easily lives are influenced by the events that happen every day. It peels back the layers, exposing not just his triumphs but the offbeat tales that transform him from a mere tennis player to a tennis icon.
Guillermo Vilas: Settling The Score by Matías Gueilburt
Imagine Argentinian legendary tennis player Guillermo Vilas with a head of hair that could rival any '80s rockstar and a wardrobe that screams, "I'm here to win, and I'm doing it in style." This is another documentary, but not the serious stats-bullshit and slow-mo-shots kind; it has the drama and the behind-the-scenes entry to the rebellious spirit and unconventional style which practically made Vilas a legend, as an Argentine journalist strives to prove that the countryman was wrongly denied the No.1 world ranking in the 1970s. If you’ve been a follower of Guillermo Vilas during his prime on the court, should give this one a go, and if this is the first time that you’ve heard the name, you should still give it a go, obviously.
Borg vs McEnroe by Janus Metz Pedersen
It’s Shia LaBeouf channeling his inner McEnroe, serving up a performance so intense it's practically a workout. On the other side is Bjorn Borg; the human embodification of stoicism on the tennis court. Depicting their iconic Wimbledon final that, to some extent, symbolised the beginning of the end of the Borg reign and the end of the beginning of McEnroe's rule as the world's greatest, this picture is akin to watching your mate amid a rage-fueled tennis match in the middle of a midlife crisis. And it's beautiful too, friendships for life and everything.