Do you like tennis? Of course you do. It’s one of the most popular sports in the world, for both men and women. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Angelique Kerber. . . the list of stars goes on and on.
Do you like Hollywood? Movies? Of course you do. That’s a given.
So why haven’t there been any really good tennis movies? Well, that’s about to change. In a big way.
Making A Racket
As the Toronto International Film Festival improbably serves up three tennis-themed films, the question looms: can the genteel sport finally get the cinematic ace it deserves?
Borg/McEnroe enters the court and looks to be a contender, taking a fictional look at the rivalry between Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) from more than 35 years ago.
“I’ve never seen a good tennis movie; they all were terrible. I’ve been in a couple of them and it was embarrassing to me how bad they were,” is what John McEnroe himself told Vanity Fair last September.
“McEnroe is the most ripe, because he’s American, he’s temperamental, he goes across all generations. Those that saw him the ’70s can appreciate what an enfant terrible he was. People who are my age can at least recognize what a great broadcaster he’s become,” says Adnan Virk, an ESPN sportscaster .
“You’ve got classic drama, because it’s fire and ice. You’ve got the European in Borg, so graceful and calm, and then you’ve got the ugly American in McEnroe, screaming and ranting with the headband, so if ever there was a film with a tennis subject that could be successful, that’s it.”
Love and War
And there’s more:
It’s joined by Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, about the historic match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.
There is also a documentary, Love Means Zero, which looks at the life of famed coach Nick Bollettieri, whose Florida-based academy has long been a hot house for tennis prodigies and future pros. These films are walking onto the court and it wouldn’t take much for them to impress.
And it’s true. In the pantheon of sports films, the tennis draw is a sorry lot. Wimbledon, the 2004 matchup starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany, is the sentimental favourite for many and did birth the classic tennis rom-com line: “Love means nothing in tennis. Zero. It only means you lose,” from which the new doc took its name.
What else is there? Break Point is another recent mediocre comedy, where two aged players get back together to play a fictional Grand Slam. There have been others, like Nobody’s Perfect, The Break and 16-Love, as well as raunchy comedies like 2nd Serve and Jocks. Mostly forgettable.
So is tennis ready for its close-up?
We’ll see. And that’s no joke-ovic.