Paul Annacone was a terrific player, rising to No. 12 in the Pepeprstone ATP Rankings (singles) and winning 14 doubles titles, including the 1985 Australian Open. He went on to coach Pete Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and Roger Federer, who broke that record and finished with 20. He’s an astute analyst for Tennis Channel, offering cerebral, nuanced commentary — and, along with Michael Russell, helps coach rising American Taylor Fritz.
He also provided perspective for the Netflix series Break Point, which dropped Friday.
What was your experience with the Netflix crew over the 2022 season?
We had significant conversations at Indian Wells, Paris, just after Wimbledon and another one a month ago. Probably a half a dozen [sit-down interviews] overall and four pretty lengthy ones. And a number of times, just onsite when we were at the same tournaments at the same time. The producers are trying to give people an understanding of who these athletes are other than what they see on TV. We’re going to see a lot of perspectives. And we’re going to see the stuff that goes through players’ minds — good, bad or indifferent.
What do you think the main takeaways will be for the audience?
The simple theme that these athletes are human beings. They’re a lot like everybody else — they’re just extremely gifted with tennis racquets in their hands. And the human condition gets lost in extraordinary people and extraordinary athletes and this hopefully will give people an understanding that, at the end of the day, they’re human beings. They feel and do and act just like we do. But they do it in front of millions of people, so it’s a little bit different.
Talking with executive producer James Gay-Rees and showrunner Kari Lia, their takeaway was something you already know as someone inside the game — that professional tennis is really hard.
Yeah, it is. And many people don’t realise that at all. We’re also at a time where I think it’s really interesting, when you see new superstars jump on to the scene all of those human characteristics come into play even more, because it’s a totally new landscape for them. So, the next 12 to 36 months is going to be really interesting.
The F1 series changed the temperature dramatically for fan support in America. Do you think “Break Point” can do the same for tennis?
The fact this series will point at the human nature of this endeavor. They’ll see just how special some of these other players who don’t have the same recognition as Serena and Roger did when they were playing. They’ll see what they’re trying to accomplish and just how hard it is. It could bring new attention.
How do you capture the casual tennis fan?
Maybe this lens will give people a different perspective. Maybe the people that happen to love Netflix and aren’t huge tennis fans will see how Taylor Fritz won the big tournament in Indian Wells and beat Rafa — and ask ‘What’s that kid like?’ Or how players like Ons Jabeur have come on to the scene and want to know more about her off the court. Maybe that will be the bait and we get the hook in the mouth of more fans. That’s the goal.