Published: 14:21 | 2/12/19

Sam Barry: Behind The Baseline


Filmed over a two-year period, this observational documentary charts the trials and tribulations of Limerick native Sam Barry as he tries to break into the elite top 200 tennis players in the world. eir sport 1, Sun, Dec 8th 9am

This is a story of grit, dedication and a will to succeed no matter what. Sam Barry is one of Ireland’s leading tennis players. He is determined to make it in the professional ranks of this most competitive of sports. He spends 40-45 weeks of the year on the road, travelling around the world to play in tournaments that will help him improve his ranking and achieve his ultimate goal – a place in the top 200.

This is the less glamorous side of professional sport, but it is equally compelling in its own right. Produced by GMarsh TV for eir sport, Sam Barry: Behind The Baseline shows us the hard yards, the rites of passage that nearly every top level sportsman or woman has to go through to make it to the big time. It’s a story of endless travel, of anonymous hotel rooms and airport departure lounges, of gut-wrenching training sessions and matches in near-empty arenas. 

Throughout it all there is Barry, relentless and determined as he heads to the likes of Israel, Spain, Qatar, France and Dubai to play in satellite tournaments that he hopes will one day earn him a place at a Grand Slam event. 

Promise

Barry was a promising junior and secured a place at the prestigious Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris where he lived on his own between the ages of 13 and 15. He became the first Irish tennis player to play all four junior Grand Slam events. 

Barry has spent the last six years on the road in his bid to break into the top 200, but it is getting tougher year by year. His highest ranking came at the end of 2016 when he reached 280. It is an extremely competitive arena where anyone inside the top 500 could beat a top 100 player on their day, such is the strength in depth of the men’s game. This is what he is up against.

The cost of life on the road is high as well, with Barry estimating that it can take anything between €80-90,000 per year. He doesn’t even have a full-time coach and spends most of the time practicing on his own. He only signs up for coaching sessions if he has a gap in his schedule and the money to pay for it. He knows this places him at a major disadvantage, but there is nothing he can do about it. 

Barry readily admits that it’s getting harder as each year passes. The emotional, physical and financial strains are huge. Despite the many obstacles in his way, however, he is determined to keep going - he knows that one good week could pave the way to bigger and better things and a place at a Grand Slam event. 

Well worth a watch.

Images: INPHO 

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