Netflix Break Point

Inside The Newest Break Point Release With Executive Producer Paul Martin

Go behind the scenes of the production of Break Point
June 21, 2023
Break Point Executive Producer Paul Martin (far left) and Netflix Director of Documentary Series Gabe Spitzer pose with series stars in January.
Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour
Break Point Executive Producer Paul Martin (far left) and Netflix Director of Documentary Series Gabe Spitzer pose with series stars in January. By ATP Staff

Why was filming with Nick Kyrgios different than expected? Why was Break Point Season 1 released in two parts? What was a memorable moment left in the editing room?

Break Point Executive Producer Paul Martin revealed all that and more in an exclusive interview with

What did you and the team learn from the reaction to the first five episodes that you implemented in the next five?
It's a good question. Whenever you do these types of shows, as you go along, your access and your understanding of the world just naturally gets better. And I would say that across all our shows — across Drive to Survive, Full Swing. I think by the time we got to Wimbledon and obviously then into the US Open and beyond, we sort of really found our stride in terms of the access, the relationships, just the bigger understanding of the world. So I think it was less a reaction to the first five, the audience's reaction to that.

At that point, we were in the edit, there was very little room to really change anything if we'd wanted. And I think it was just more a reaction to just having a better understanding of the world when we were producing the last five episodes. So I would say that that was the biggest change, just a deeper understanding of the tennis world, the personalities, the characters, and all that stuff.

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You mentioned Drive to Survive and Full Swing. Those shows have come out in the past in one batch. How different was it working on a split season?
I think it was an interesting challenge. It was something we hadn't done before. It was partly the scheduling of it and we wanted to get something out before the Australian Open. Just the nature of the schedule meant that we couldn't get to a stage where we could get all 10 episodes out before that.

So we came up with this kind of solution and the first five, the reaction was great and really engaged people. Hopefully the next five kind of reignites that audience that found the first five episodes and perhaps brings in a new audience as well. Maybe we get two bites at the cherry, I don't know.

I think it's probably the first time Netflix have done this with one of these titles, so I think it will be interesting for all of us to see how it kind of pans out. But it was as much the edit schedule and the deadlines that we had that made us do it this way more than anything, I would say.

Something that must have been interesting for you was how you were trying to finalise the first season while you were filming the next season. How did you balance working on one season while filming the next at the same time? What were the challenges of that?
It's sort of a very unique challenge that we faced and I think it's a testament to how busy the tennis schedule is. There really is no break. You sort of go in, you get to the end of the year and then suddenly they're back in Australia and they're preparing for the Australian Open. For us kind of making the show, it was the same.

So we were in a kind of unique position that we've never really been in before, where Season 1 hadn't necessarily all wrapped and been done. There we were in Australia filming with the majority of characters from Season 1. Whenever you do these types of shows, whenever you've kind of started Season 2, you want your characters to have seen the show to have understood the show to kind of appreciate the show. It was definitely a different challenge to be down in Australia and have some of our characters only have seen the first five and some of the characters that appear in the back five episodes obviously not having seen them and kind of understood that.

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Now that the first season is done, from these five episodes, specifically, which character would you say was the most different compared to what you expected?
I think definitely Nick. Obviously when we started filming with Nick in Australia in Season 1, all we knew was, frankly, the newspaper headlines, 'The Bad Boy of Tennis', or however you want to characterise him. Actually when you meet and you spend time with Nick, he's an incredibly nice, sensitive, normal guy, and I think that surprised us. And it also surprised us that we thought we were going to go to Australia, we had no idea that he was going to go on this incredible run and get to the final Wimbledon, play some incredible tennis across the year. I think Nick is kind of the obvious one.

But also Ajla. We meet Ajla in Australia very much as kind of Matteo's girlfriend at that point. And then to fast forward to the US Open, and to go into that match with Serena where even though she was one of our characters, I don't think anyone on our production team believed that she was going to win that game, because Serena had sort of picked up a bit of momentum and that whole crowd was behind Serena.

Chris Evert says in the show, she said there were always just question marks over, was Ajla really tough enough for this world? We really wanted her to win, but I don't think any of us expected that kind of performance. It was one of the most phenomenal evenings of the entire shoot in the show, and to see her handle the crowd and ultimately defeat Serena was an incredible moment. And I think it was such a huge moment in her life and her career. It was just great to see. It was really the highlight for us and a testament to how far she had come over the course of our series as well.

It was funny, the moment in the restaurant before the match when her dad was like, 'We're f'd'.
That's my favourite moment in the entire series, because it's just a human reaction. He's trying to calm her down with stories about his handball exploits. And then in the moment he realises that actually, we're playing in front of 25,000 tomorrow. There was this reaction like all of us did of like 'Oh, you're f***ed. You're definitely f***ed.' [It was] so brilliant. Honestly, my favourite moment in the entire series.

Frances, this is the first time that you dig deeper into him in these episodes at the US Open. Obviously you didn't know what he was going to do what he did at that tournament. But then it happened. How happy were you to be able to tell that story through such a raw moment like that?
It was amazing. Frances is just such an extraordinary character and [he has] such an extraordinary backstory. On these shows, you need a sporting payoff somewhere along the line to really be able to land the show. But I think there was just something at the US Open that once Serena had gone out, it almost felt like Frances just wanted to step into that role.

You've seen how the crowd reacted to Serena, he'd been there the night that she got beat and that she retired. I think there was just something that he wanted to kind of pick up the baton and really take that on to the next level. The run, it was just incredible. And even the match he lost against Carlos was one of the most extraordinary matches I saw last year, so we were so happy for him, so happy for him.

It was just an incredibly unique energy those two weeks of the US Open with everything that happened to Serena, everything that happened to Frances. It was just an extraordinary place to be. 

Was there a moment from the men's players in the show, that sort of hurt for you to have to leave out from the first season that you wanted to include, but you just couldn't make it work?
I think we spent a lot of time with Matteo last year. It's this thing we talked about with Frances, you never know how people are really going to do. Obviously Matteo won Stuttgart, won Queen's. We really felt like he was going to go really, really deep at Wimbledon and getting the call from his manager a couple of days before Wimbledon was due to start and say, ‘Listen, he's got COVID and I don't think he's going to make it to his match on Monday or Tuesday’, or whenever it was.

We would have loved to really dive into that story a bit more, really how hurt he was by that, because up until that point, he didn't look like he was going to lose a point on grass. I think that it would have been great to have been able to really tell that story of looking at Matteo in that period, because we filmed some amazing scenes with him in and around that and around the hurt of not being able to take to the court Wimbledon. But ultimately, there just wasn't space to properly tell that story. But listen, hopefully if he comes back and has a good Wimbledon this year, we can maybe incorporate some of that into Season 2.

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