• 'Althea', 'Fair Game' and 'Venus and Serena'. (SBS)
What to watch when you’re not watching a game, set or match.
By
Sarah Ward

6 Sep 2017 - 1:15 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2017 - 1:15 PM

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll know that cheering on teams competing for victory is only the beginning of the sporting journey. Whichever game you prefer or match you’re following, there’s always another story behind each and every attempt to chase glory. What happens off the field, beyond the pitch and outside of the ring doesn’t stay there, however, with a whole genre of filmmaking dedicated to dissecting the dramas behind the contest. And regardless of your chosen code, a great sports documentary can be just as thrilling as watching live sport in action.

In September, SBS viewers can do both. The fast-paced action of the US Open comes to SBS and SBS On Demand from 6 September, while an array of sports docos are always on hand when the courtside antics take a break. Catch the best current players swinging big, then explore a forgotten tennis hero’s story, step into the world of two of the sport’s best players, watch a former AFL footballer take on racism and more. 

 

Althea

Althea Gibson isn’t a household name, but she should be. Sixty years ago, she became the first African-American woman to win Wimbledon — and at a time when tennis was still highly segregated, her path to success was far from easy. From her Harlem upbringing to her switch to golf to make a living (where she also excelled), Althea tells her story, endeavouring to do justice to a woman who changed and made sporting history.

 

Fair Game

When Heritier Lumumba, formerly known as Harry O'Brien, took to the AFL field, he was a determined competitor. When Collingwood Football Club president Eddie McGuire made a racist on-air comment about Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, Lumumba proved just as formidable. Speaking out against his boss, he stood up against the prejudice infecting his club, his chosen sporting code and his country. Fair Game explores his efforts, his impact, and the personal and professional aftermath.

 

Venus and Serena

For more than a decade, the Williams sisters have been synonymous with women’s tennis — and they have the shelves filled with cups, trophies and silverware to prove it. Venus and Serena steps behind their success, offering a warts-and-all celebration of sisters doing it for themselves and reshaping tennis in the process. Come for the off-the-court look at two of the greatest athletes of the modern era, stay for a hefty dose of inspiration.

 

Hoop Dreams

Considered one of, if not the best sporting documentary ever made, but famously not even nominated for an Academy Award, Steve James’s basketball-focused effort bounces through terrain that could’ve been standard in other hands. As African-American boys Arthur Agee and William Gates try to chase their hoop-shooting fantasies, the astute chronicle of their endeavours also becomes an examination of the ways that race and class operate in the US — and how they intersect with talent and ambition.

 

Murderball

There’s no sport quite like murderball, though that’s not its real name. Thanks to its intensity and the exuberant enthusiasm oozing from its players, wheelchair rugby is in a class of its own. And before the Academy Award-nominated Murderball brought the sport to the big screen, it was something few outside its remit knew about. The passion, the dedication, the in-game spills and thrills, the quest for Paralympic glory... there’s a reason this documentary won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award.

 

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

He could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee in the ring, however the story of Muhammad Ali’s life extends well beyond his boxing career. Indeed, when it came to speaking out about his beliefs, protesting the Vietnam War, and fighting against discrimination and injustice, he packed a mighty punch as well. Traversing the highlights and controversies alike, this informative documentary acts as both a biography of the man in the spotlight and a history of the context behind his efforts.

 

Watch all the 2017 US Open action from the quarter-finals onwards live, free and in HD on SBS, and streamed live via SBS On Demand. Starting from 9am on Wednesday 6 September through to the women's singles final on 10 September and men's singles final on 11 September.

More on the Guide
The eight best sporting documentaries — and what makes them great
Each week Vice World of Sports reminds us that the absolute best sporting documentaries are about so much more than the sporting event itself.
The 11 most racist and/or sexist moments in tennis
Blackface, deportation and twirling… a random stroll through the awkward bigotry of tennis.