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Tennis on film

A look at some of our favourite tennis-themed movies.

Wimbledon (2004, Richard Loncraine)

A love story set against the backdrop of the world’s oldest tennis championships, Wimbledon is a light romantic comedy with some brilliant tennis scenes that make up for the lack of substance elsewhere. Jaded tennis star Peter (Paul Bettany) has seen his ranking slip from 11th in the world to 119th, but thanks to a wildcard spot is playing one last Wimbledon tournament before retiring from the game. When he meets bright young tennis star Lizzie (Kirsten Dunst), though, his attitude towards life and tennis starts to change. As they fall in love, her spirit and energy gives him the strength to win again. Though it’s no cinematic masterpiece, the tennis scenes are well choreographed and performed, with plenty of on-court tension to keep you entertained.

Match Point (2005. Woody Allen)

The recurring image of a tennis ball hitting the top of the net is a reminder of the growing tension – and the role that chance plays ¬– throughout Woody Allen’s dramatic and intriguing Match Point. Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a retired tennis pro playing a dark psychological match in his head, torn between his desire for two very different women – his fiancé, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), who will bring him into the life of wealth and success he yearns for, and his future brother-in-law’s seductive fiancé, Nola (Scarlett Johansson), who increasingly consumes his thoughts. This impressive film combines great writing, great acting and great tennis to tell a story of seduction, ambition and passion.

Venus and Serena (2012, Michelle Major and Maiken Baird)

Together they make the greatest sister act the world of pro tennis has ever seen. This documentary follows Venus and Serena Williams during the 2011 tennis season, taking a close look at their lives on and off the court. The superstar sisters have been ruling women’s tennis for over a decade, storming with courage and grace into a world where they faced discrimination, stacking up victory after victory and breaking new ground for female and African-American athletes in the process. Featuring interviews with everyone from Billie Jean King to Bill Clinton, Venus and Serena is an inspiring film that reveals the two women’s incredible strength and perseverance in a highly demanding sport.

Strangers on a Train (1951, Alfred Hitchcock)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated Strangers on a Train brings together murder, suspense and tennis in a captivating psychological thriller. Guy (Farley Granger) is a tennis star whose life takes a dramatic turn when he by chance meets psychopath Bruno (Robert Walker) on a train from Washington, D.C. to New York. Bruno suggests they commit a “criss-cross murder”, a perfect crime where they could both be rid of the people making their lives complicated. It’s only later that Guy realises the conversation he dismissed as a joke was deadly serious. The film climaxes with one of the most tense and harrowing tennis scenes ever captured on screen.

Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951, Ida Lupino)

Big-time sport can be ruthless. Florence (Sally Forrest) is a teenager with a gift for tennis, driven on to success by her fiercely ambitious mother Milly (Claire Trevor), who sees her daughter as her ticket to money and fame and will stop at nothing to make her a champion. It’s a classic story of a controlling ‘stage parent’ trying to recreate her life through her daughter. Hard, Fast and Beautiful is the film that established British actress Ida Lupino as a director, and at the dawning of the modern era of big-time women’s sports it reveals the challenges and tensions of the sport, as well as the uneasy relationship between amateur and professional tennis. It’s a low-budget film but well-enduring, and the tennis scenes provide some captivating action.

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