Fandom: Broken Rackets
World-class players, flowing champagne, stylish fans and a generous serving of strawberries and cream. We're off to the tennis with Emanuele D'Angelo of Broken Rackets!
Italian Emanuele D’Angelo is a talented portrait lifestyle photographer, but nowadays his true passion is tennis. Driven by his love for the sport, Emanuele created the platform Broken Rackets, which showcases his photography, encompassing not only the sport itself but also the vibrant lifestyle and culture surrounding it. We chat to Emanuele about how he wants Broken Rackets to address what he sees as a lack of drama in the sport, and he aims to bridge the gap between tennis and its broader appeal, injecting vitality and style into the game.
Glorious: Which came first, photography or your interest in tennis?
Emanuele: Photography came first, I work as a portrait lifestyle photographer, but my primary focus for the past four or five years has been tennis. It has become my true passion. While I used to be excited about shooting fashion at events, now I feel most energised whenever I attend a tennis tournament. My interest in tennis developed around five or six years ago. When I was living in LA, I randomly started playing for fun with friends and eventually I began to take lessons. Then Covid happened, and even though access to courts was limited, I managed to find opportunities to play and improve, and now I am incredibly passionate about the sport.
Glorious: Can you share the story behind your platform, Broken Rackets? Why did you create it, and what is the message you want to convey about tennis?
Emanuele: I started attending tournaments and capturing images of fans, their outfits, and tennis courts worldwide during my travels. This led me to establish Broken Rackets, a platform showcasing my photography that encompasses everything from the sport itself to the lifestyle and culture surrounding it, as a way to address what I perceive as a lack of drama in tennis.
I believe that interactions between players, the umpire and the crowd bring excitement to the sport. In any other sports (especially football) it is totally normal that the crowd interacts with the players and the umpire, but in tennis this is not liked. I remember a match in Rome last year between Italian Lorenzo Sonego and Denis Shapovalov. Obviously the crowd in Italy was supporting Sonego and at one point Shapovalov complained to the umpire regarding a call. Then suddenly he turned his back to the noisy crowd and told them loudly to shut the f*** up. The crowd went even crazier against him. I loved that moment of drama and interaction. Maybe it wasn’t the classiest, but at least it made the match really interesting. Another episode that comes to my mind is when Nick Kyrgios interacted with a fan that was sitting near Ben Stiller at Indian Wells in 2022.
Kyrgios said to the fan, “If you don’t play tennis, then you shouldn’t talk to me.” He then pointed at Ben Stiller adding, “Do I tell him how to act?” Unlike the conventional approach of simply showing up to play, I appreciate the unconventional aspects that make tennis thrilling. I find that the sport lacks the identifiable style icons it had in the past, such as Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. There seems to be a gap between the sport itself and its broader appeal, which I aim to fill.
While there is currently increased attention on tennis, I believe there is still much more that can be done to improve the sport’s foundations and overall product. The main driving force behind creating Broken Rackets was to provide a platform where I can share my genuine passion for tennis through my photography and inspire others to become passionate as well. Since starting this project a year ago, I have launched a website where I sell limited edition prints of my tennis court photos, some merch and I also released a limited edition book Broken Rackets Issue 1
Glorious: What role do you envision Broken Rackets playing in shaping the culture and perception of tennis?
Emanuele: I feel that there is a lack of players who have a strong presence both on and off the court. While players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have represented the sport exceptionally well, I sense a need for influential figures from the modern game who can make a lasting impact. Tennis has to evolve together with contemporary culture. I appreciate when Nick Kyrgios shows up with his Air Jordans at Wimbledon or when Jannik Sinner walks onto Centre Court with a Gucci bag. There should be more crossover appeal like the recent Travis Scott/John McEnroe x Nike commercial where two different worlds combine. I think this is very important for the sport. In today’s tennis landscape, there seems to be an excessive emphasis on political correctness, which has made the sport more conventional. This sentiment inspired the name ‘Broken Rackets’ and aligns with the message I want to convey. I appreciate when tennis breaks away from the conventional norms.
In Italy, for instance, most tennis clubs have existed for a long time and cater to a specific age group. I believe it’s important to communicate with the youth and the younger generation, while also maintaining certain traditions, and it would be fantastic to see tennis clubs that primarily attract a younger age group. Of course, tennis should still be inclusive of people of all ages, but I think it’s crucial to engage and inspire the younger generation in order to shape the future of the sport. Broken Rackets aims to challenge the current perceptions and traditions surrounding tennis, injecting it with more vitality and appeal to a wider audience.
Glorious: Amazing! But you don’t just focus on male tennis players?
Emanuele: I started with men’s tennis, but I do photograph female tennis players and intend to focus more on women. In tennis, it’s amazing to see the talent and dedication regardless of gender. What people fail to realise is the immense sacrifices, especially women, have to make. Their physical abilities are impressive – look at someone like Serena Williams.
Glorious: Are there any specific tennis venues or tournaments that you find particularly captivating when it comes to photographing fans?
Emanuele: One tournament that stands out to me is Indian Wells. It’s a favourite among true tennis fans. You can sense the passion and dedication of the fans. Unlike some other tournaments where people may not be as focused on tennis, Indian Wells draws a crowd that is genuinely enthusiastic about the sport. It’s situated in a remote area, earning it the nickname ‘the fifth Grand Slam or Tennis Paradise’. You’re literally in the middle of the desert, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from LA. It’s not a place people stumble upon casually; you have to make an effort to get there. The setting feels like another world, almost like being on Mars. The matches take place in scorching temperatures, reaching around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius during the day. Wimbledon is another venue that I love, and I think many others share that sentiment. The rich history, the picturesque location, and the grass courts make it truly unique.
Glorious: Have you noticed any distinctive characteristics in tennis fans that stand out in your photos?
Emanuele: One noticeable aspect is how people dress and express their connection to the sport. For example, some women accessorise with tennis-themed items like bags shaped like rackets. During my time at Indian Wells, I encountered three women, around 60 to 65 years old, who caught my attention. They had created their own custom shirts featuring Nick Kyrgios’ name and the playful phrase “I Got Nicked. I also came across another lady wearing a shirt with a warning sign and the amusing statement, “Warning: I might start talking about tennis.” These characteristics, such as fashion choices and personalised creations, mean that I can quickly identify individuals who share a deep passion for tennis. The connections with fans are fascinating and through our shared love for the sport, we can engage in conversations for ages and potentially form lasting friendships.
Glorious: How does the level of fan engagement differ between tournaments and locations, and how does this impact the overall atmosphere of the matches?
Emanuele: The level of fan engagement can vary depending on the tournament and location. At the cinch Championships final at The Queen’s Club this year, the crowd was remarkably quiet, creating a more subdued atmosphere. On the other hand, tournaments like Miami and Rome have fans who are known for their exuberance. In Miami, the sponsor’s guests in the bars and boxes add to the loud and lively atmosphere. Similarly, in Rome, you can witness the passion of young fans who attend the early days of the tournament. It turns out that many of these youngsters are lively because they place bets on the matches, which adds to the excitement, and is similar to what you might find in football matches.
Glorious: How do you navigate the fine line between capturing the enthusiasm of fans while still respecting their privacy?
Emanuele: To strike that balance, I take care not to focus too much on capturing fans’ faces. Instead, I tend to focus on details like their unique clothing or accessories that showcase their enthusiasm for the sport. If someone is wearing a particularly cool sweater or has a distinctive item, I capture that without including their face in the frame. In the era of social media, many people are comfortable being photographed, but I still make it a point to ask for permission when taking portraits. I respect their privacy and ensure they are comfortable with the photo being taken.
Glorious: Do you have any favourite images that capture both players and fans?
Emanuele: Yes, I do have a couple of favourite images that showcase the connection between players and fans. One that stands out is a photo I took of Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells last year. In the image, there’s a young child holding an umbrella next to Nadal. The child’s gaze shows a sense of curiosity, almost mesmerised by the presence of the tennis legend. Another favourite image is one I captured of Stefanos Tsitsipas during practice in Miami. He is wearing a Panathinaikos football team shirt, and he’s executing a one-handed backhand while jumping.
When it comes to fans, I appreciate any photo that effectively communicates their passion for tennis. It could be a photo of a fan wearing a unique shirt, like one featuring the name of a player or a vintage sweater that reflects their distinctive style. I also find it intriguing to capture fans who have a classier or more refined appearance. It would be interesting to explore customising jerseys with players’ names like the one worn by Tsitsipas and similar to what is seen in football or basketball. I haven’t come across anyone doing that in tennis yet.
Glorious: What’s next for you?
Emanuele: I’m already planning a second issue of Broken Rackets. The first issue was limited to just 100 copies, making it highly exclusive. My goal is to continue sharing the photos I captured over the past year. I’m excited about the future of Broken Rackets and the upcoming events and pop-ups where people can come, get the book, and engage with my work. I’ve already hosted events in Rome and in Milan, and I’m looking forward to organising more events in Paris and London. Alongside that, I’m open to collaborations with other brands and projects.