Couch Tennis

by Scott Langdon

February 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased leisure time for many Ontarians unable to work or volunteer but has decreased the number of leisure activities that are allowable under provincial guidelines and restrictions.

Tennis players are dreaming about post-Covid times when the sun is shining, the courts beckon and “normal” tennis returns. In the meantime, the following lists of documentary and feature films as well as books about tennis might help keep the dream alive until vaccines deliver us from the boredom and drudgery of the last year.

A good movie or book is always better with a heaping bowl of buttered popcorn. Our special popcorn recipes will help you while away the hours in front of the television or fireplace.

And, just to make sure you are still getting your all-important exercise for the coming outdoor season, we have included a list of simple exercises you can do while seated. Enjoy.

Documentary films

The website published their list of all-time-great tennis documentaries. Here is a summary.

  • Andy Murray: Resurfacing
    Amazon Prime producers documented the return-to-play of former world number one, Andy Murray, in 2017. They got an all-access look into this well-known comeback journey including “incredible insight into the mind and motivations of perhaps the greatest living British sportsman.”
  • Unmatched
    “I don’t think either of us would have lasted as long without the other,” is how tennis great Martina Navratilova described her long-time rivalry and friendship with Chris Evert. The film tells the story of the decades-long, intense competition between the two, tennis hall of fame players.
  • Being Serena
    Broadcast on HBO in 2018, this film tells the story of Serena Williams’ pregnancy and motherhood, new marriage and her journey back to competitive tennis.
  • Strokes of Genius
    This film is about the 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Many observers consider this the finest tennis match ever played.
  • McEnroe/Borg: Fire & Ice
    Cool, relentless demeanour versus passion-fuelled, court-side tantrums is the way describes the legendary rivalry of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. This HBO film tells the story including extensive interviews with both players.
  • This is What They Want
    The backdrop for this film is the 1991 U.S. Open when Jimmy Connors used skill and his force of personality to make it all the way to the semi-finals at the age of 39. The film also includes insights into Borg and McEnroe and explores how the three players made tennis “feel less like a country club pastime and more like a hard-nosed, full-contact sport.”
  • Arthur and Johnnie
    One of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, the film relates the life of Arthur Ashe and his brother Johnnie.
  • Facing Federer
    This is a behind-the-scenes look at the Masters’ Tour 2004, in the early years of Federer’s career, providing what calls “a window into the perceptions of the past” and “a snapshot of history before the real story was known.”

Excluded from the list: John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, set at the 1984 French Open final between McEnroe and Ivan Lendl and The French, a behind the scenes look at the French Open.

Feature films

  • Battle of the Sexes
    The feature film about the tennis-changing exhibition match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 is one of the best-known tennis movies. But according to, it is far from the only one.
  • Players
    A young male tennis star falls in love with an older woman while competing at Wimbledon. She must choose between the young star and a millionaire she is already engaged to. There are cameos from tennis players John McEnroe, Pancho Gonzales, Guillermo Vilas and Ilie Nastase.
  • Nobody’s Perfect
    A college tennis star falls in love with a female player at his school, becomes distracted and is kicked off the team. He disguises himself as a girl to play on the women’s tennis team and remain close to his true love. His plan, however, goes awry.
  • The Break
    A disgraced professional tennis player, banned for striking an opponent during a televised match, becomes the coach of a teenager with instructions from the youngster’s father to dissuade him from a pro career. The reappearance of the pro player’s ex-flame causes him to go against the father’s orders.
  • Wimbledon
    An older male professional player and a rising young female player meet at Wimbledon and fall in love. His performance on the court improves while hers declines. The movie is described as a romantic comedy.
  • Match Point
    Relationships, love and murder all come together in this Woody Allen psychological thriller based at an upscale tennis club in London, U.K. Allen received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
  • Borg/McEnroe
    A fictional account of the drama between the two great players at the 1980 Wimbledon Championships.


Many good books about tennis have been written. lists its “20 tennis books you must read”. Some, but not all, include:

  • The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Galway
    One of the best-selling tennis books, it offers insights into the mental side of the game.
  • The Pros: The forgotten era of tennis by Peter Underwood
    Insights into tennis before it became commercialized.
  • Roger Federer: Phenomenon. Enthusiast. Philanthropist. by Simon Graf
    An easy read providing insights into Federer’s personality.
  • Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve learned from life and the Battle of the Sexes by Billie Jean King
    Covers stories from her childhood and professional career.
  • Able: Gold Medals, Grand Slams and Smashing Glass Ceilings by Dylan Alcott
    Discusses the struggles of one of the biggest names in wheelchair tennis and how Alcott overcame them.
  • Open: An autobiography by Andre Agassi
    The title says it all. Agassi’s story in his own words.
  • String Theory by David Wallace
    Five short stories about tennis you can easily read in a day.
  • Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert
    Gilbert writes about preparation and the mental side of tennis.
  • Too Soon to Panic by Gordon Forbes
    The pro tennis scene in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Ace Against Odds by Sania Mirza
    Her journey to become the number 1 female doubles player.

Popcorn recipes

Popcorn like you rarely see it or taste it. provides 32 salty, sweet and spicy versions of the classic movie treat. How about Cookie Monster popcorn? Maybe Taco Night popcorn? Or if you want to combine tennis with your birthday, Birthday Cake popcorn. All 32 recipes are available online.

Here is one recipe that combines two Friday night staples.

  • Pizza popcorn: packed with pepperoni, parmesan and pepper, it can almost double as a meal according to the website.

    Ingredients – I bag little butter popcorn; 2 tbsp. butter, melted; 3 tbsp. freshly-grated parmesan cheese; ½ tsp. garlic powder; 1 tsp. oregano; a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes; ¼ cup chopped pepperoni.

    Directions – Pop the popcorn according to the package’s instructions. Place the popcorn in a resealable bag and add remaining ingredients. Seal and shake to coat, then serve.

Couch tennis exercise

Real tennis is much more desirable than couch tennis in pretty much any way you can think of. But you can still achieve some physical benefits when watching a tennis documentary or feature film on your cozy rec room couch. Some of the following exercises might make simultaneous book reading a bit problematic, however.

  • Arm circles
  • Leg lift & twist
  • Sitting jacks
  • Skater switch
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Sit rope
  • Chair running

Go to You Can Do Sitting Down to learn the exercises.

Online instruction

There are also many online tennis instructional opportunities for people wanting to focus on improvement. lists 19 tennis training courses and schools including, and others. Some lessons are free while others requirement payment.

The OTA has recently entered into a partnership with the newest digital e-learning platform, TopCourt, that has partnered with over 40 of today’s top ranked tennis professionals, famous tennis legends and elite coaches, to offer tennis players and fans a behind-the-scenes look inside the lives, minds, training strategies and on-court performances of the world’s best. Check them out at

“Just because we are not able to play does not mean that we cannot try to improve. In fact, it may be a net positive to have the time to do these things now so that we follow through on some of them,” one avid recreational player told “I have been checking out information on warm-up routines, exercises and rehabilitation work and purchased two hundred hours of instruction from the Fuzzy Yellow Balls program.”

Couch tennis is no replacement for the sport of tennis. But it might help keep the dream alive until the snow melts, the cold turns to warm, the sun shines brightly and the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a bad memory of a time without tennis.