Tennis can be the most cinematic of sports. Stories are played out on big stages for big stakes, with great, sudden shifts in momentum, and constant close-ups of each character's emotions and agency. Spider-cam zooms in so close you get to see a player's psyche almost as perfectly as their perspiration. But, without any live tennis to watch for a while, it's time - if you haven't done so already - to turn to tennis in the actual movies. Here is a selection of tennis films, or movies that include memorable tennis scenes or cameos from tennis players.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Anyone who says that Hollywood doesn't make great tennis films hasn't seen Battle of the Sexes. Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King and Steve Carell is cast as Bobby Riggs, the self-described "male chauvinist pig", with the film telling the story of their exhibition match at the Houston Astrodome in 1973. As critic Mark Kermode noted in The Observer newspaper, "having trained hard for the role, Stone captures both the steely resolve and sturdy presence of King without losing sight of the warmth, style and generosity of spirit that made her an inspirational figure".
The Battle of the Sexes (2013)
Same theme, different format. This documentary looks at the events leading up to that 1973 match between Riggs and King. The WTA was heavily involved in arranging the interviews and helping with the facts behind the storytelling, including the link with the WTA's Original 9. Danny Boyle attended the London premiere of the documentary and was a subsequently one of the producers of the 2017 Hollywood movie.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This isn't a tennis movie as such, but director Wes Anderson does, in Vanity Fair's estimation, "capture the sport's oddball absurdity". Luke Wilson plays Richie Tenebaum, a hotshot, hothead tennis player with Bjorn Borg's style and John McEnroe's temperament and a thirst for Bloody Marys. An on-court meltdown is provoked by Richie's unrequited love for his adopted sister, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The tantrum sees Richie remove his shoes and one of his socks.
Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951)
According to Timeout, this is "an intriguing little melodrama about an ambitious, domineering mother who pushes her daughter to become a tennis champion, only to accuse her of ingratitude when she falls in love and tires of the tournament circuit", with the film apparently inspired by the true story of Helen Wills Moody. One critic called it "probably the truest ever cinematic portrait of the forces that shape the mentality of a tennis player", though you have to imagine that those forces have changed somewhat since then.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
A tennis player makes a pact with a stranger to commit "a criss-cross murder". Produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this is "the best-ever movie with a tennis player in the lead", according to the Daily Telegraph. Incidentally, this isn't the only Hitchcock film with a tennis player, as there is also one in Dial M for Murder.
“The only way an Englishman is ever going to win Wimbledon is in a fantastical concoction like this," one critic wrote of this film starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. Since then, Scotsman Andy Murray has won Wimbledon twice, but no Englishman, or Englishwoman, has managed it.
A film revolving around a male tennis player who falls in love with an older woman while playing at Wimbledon is notable for its list of cameos. Look out for John McEnroe, Pancho Gonzalez, Guillermo Vilas and Ilie Nastase.
Match Point (2005)
Woody Allen was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay for this film, though wasn't successful on the night. The film is about a retired tennis pro, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who falls for Scarlett Johansson’s character.
It's not often that tennis players have cameos in James Bond films, but Vijay Amritraj did just that in Octopussy, playing an MI6 agent. He also appeared in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as a starship officer.
2017 was a busy year for tennis in Hollywood - the same year that the studios retold the story of King-Riggs, it also recreated one of the most enthralling matches of all times, the 1980 Wimbledon men's singles final between Bjorn Borg (played by Sverrir Gudnason) and McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf).