One remarkable trend in the sports documentary space over the past few years has been not just single documentary features on individual athletes, but entire docuseries on those athletes. A few of the many examples there have included ESPN Films’ seven-part docuseries The Captain on Derek Jeter, the different Religion of Sports/Facebook Watch Versus series on Steph Curry, Simone Biles, and Tom Brady, and the ESPN/Religion of Sports Man in the Arena series on Brady. Now, ROS and ESPN have teamed up for one following on from that last series, In The Arena: Serena Williams.
The Williams series will be directed by Religion of Sports co-founder Gotham Chopra, and is co-produced by ESPN, ROS, Brady (also a ROS co-founder, with Chopra and Michael Strahan)’s 199 Productions, and Williams’ and Caroline Currier’s Nine Two Six Productions. It was announced at (ESPN parent) Disney’s upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday. Here’s more on it from a release:
At the Walt Disney Company Upfront presentation today, Serena Williams announced that production has started on the new ESPN series In the Arena: Serena Williams. Williams dominated tennis for over two decades, winning 23 Grand Slams (singles) and changing the sport forever. Following the success of the Emmy-winning Man in the Arena: Tom Brady, Serena’s expansion of the franchise will be a multi-part series that provides the most complete, intimate, and compelling account of her legendary career, featuring firsthand perspective from Serena and key figures throughout her life.
Several of Serena’s most significant Grand Slam tournaments and defining personal milestones are examined and decoded in detail. The series juxtaposes Serena’s spectacular on-court achievements and cultural impact with dramatic personal challenges. Through it all, Serena fights to maintain her place atop the tennis world while juggling the transformational experience of starting a family.
Her career comes full circle as she welcomes a new generation of challengers – each inspired by Serena and hungry to follow in her footsteps, and of course, take her down. Spanning the life and legend of the greatest player of all time, we’ll track Serena’s personal and generational journey from phenom to icon—re-examining decisive matches, formative moments, heartbreak, and glory along the way.
The firsthand perspective from Williams (seen above in a Sept. 2022 US Open match) is an obvious requirement for a series like this, but there does appear to be a lot of public interest in hearing from athletes in their own words these days, something we’re seeing with the wide expansion of athletes’ podcasts and shows. It’s also interesting that this will have perspective from “key figures throughout her life”; while the athletes’ own stories in these docuseries have often been the key focus, some of the comments from other voices have been quite notable, including Alex Rodriguez in The Captain. We don’t yet have a premiere date for this series, or even a number of episodes, but this will be one for tennis fans and fans of Williams to keep an eye out for.
[Photo from Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports]