What Is a Break Point In Tennis?

One of the crucial parts of any set in tennis is when a returner has a chance to win a point. Since servers have the advantage of starting a point, winning a game as the receiver heavily contributes to winning a match.

In essence, this is where break points come in with tennis. What exactly are break points, and how important are they? We look at all that and more below.

What is a Break Point in Tennis? A break point in tennis occurs whenever the returner has an opportunity to break the server. In the sport, servers are expected to have the advantage since they are starting the point. Breaking serve can be huge for ultimately coming home with a victory in a match.

How Are The Number of Break Points Calculated?

Every single time a returner has a chance to break serve, it counts as an opportunity. Break point conversion percentages are a major telling point as far as who comes through in these important points.

Here’s an example of what a break point is:

Point Number Player 1 (Server) Player 2
1 15 0
2 15 15
3 15 30
4 15 40 (Break Point!)
5 30 (Saved 1 Break Point) 40
6 40 (Saved 2 Break Points) 40 (Deuce)
7 40 AD (Break Point)
8 0 (Player 2 Wins The Game) 0 (+1 Game)

How Much Do Break Points Matter?

Break points are one of the biggest points in any tennis match, as it gives the returner a potentially huge advantage. In order to win a match, it is pretty much required to capitalize on at least one break point.

The exception to the rule is winning in two tiebreakers without ever dropping serve, but not all matches even allow for something like that to happen.

Letting break points slip away easily can let the players off the hook in a hurry. Nobody wants to take the pressure off of players when they are feeling it like that. It’s important to keep the pressure on as much as possible to have the upper hand.

Players with the highest break point converted percentage on the ATP Tour:

  1. Rafael Nadal: 45.03%
  2. Novak Djokovic: 44.39%
  3. Diego Schwartzman: 43.89%
  4. Andy Murray: 43.36%
  5. Fabio Fognini: 42.93%

Players with the highest break points saved percentage on the ATP Tour:

  1. Ivo Karlovic: 70.96%
  2. John Isner: 70.59%
  3. Milos Raonic: 69.62%
  4. Roger Federer: 67.27%
  5. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga: 66.99&

Do Some Players Have Advantages on Break Points?

Confidence and the right mentality play huge roles in coming through in break point opportunities. More often than not, the more seasoned and experienced players can come through on break point. That’s not always the case, but having the right mentality certainly makes a difference.

From a playing perspective, those who have a powerful serve can get themselves out of trouble more often than not. All it takes is a great place for the serve, and break points can be avoided. Of course, people get themselves in break point chances in the first place, so maybe the serve isn’t going in as frequently as it should.

There’s also a thought process that left-handed players have a slight advantage on break points compared to right-handers. Most left-handers have a little more success returning on the ad part of the court, which gives them an advantage on capitalizing.

As far as fighting off break points are concerned, lefties can spin the ball off the court and get the advantage right away. This is not to say the right-handers can’t also have success in break point opportunities, but lefties can create a little bit more as far as angles are concerned.

However, the same can be said for right-handers who feel more confident with their backhand than their forehand. This, essentially, makes them left-handed players off the ground.

What’s The Best Advice For Handling Break Points?

Whether it’s winning or saving break points, players are always looking to improve their chances of coming through. These are a few general tips on how to approach break points and increase the odds of winning.

Never Feel Rushed

Too many players instantly feel like they are rushed when they are about to face a break point. Make sure to relax and take it like any other point, and this will be better overall.

Feeling rushed is going to cause a lot of unforced errors for most players.

Consistency Is Key

Somewhat related to not feeling too rushed is also staying consistent. Don’t change strategy too much with a breakpoint. What’s worked in the past will still work now, as long as it is executed correctly.

This is the last time to try a crazy drop shot, or rush the net out of character. Sticking to the game plan and doing the right things helps.

Dictate Play as Much as Possible

Feeling nervous and worried about executing properly during a break point? Chances are, the competition is feeling the exact same way.

The best way to approach everything is to play the right way and try to dictate points as much as possible. Instead of being passive, take the initiative and feel very trusting in shots.

There’s a time and place to be defensive, but only if they are coming with pretty hard shots of their own. Where the opportunity arises, attacking can be the great equalizer.

Don’t Waste Easy Opportunities

It’s sometimes easier said than done, but don’t waste easy opportunities and let them off the hook at times. All the pressure should be on the server, not the receiver.

That means that as a receiver, a player should just be looking to make sure they hit a solid enough shot that they get it back into play. Going for way too much, or trying something crazy right off of the serve, it’s usually not going to work.

It might seem like there are endless opportunities to break a player early on in a match, but letting any break point slip away could come back to bite certain players. Treat each one like it could be the last, and that will be a much better mindset overall.

A Final Look at Break Points In Tennis

Breakpoints obviously are not the only major statistic to look at in the sport of tennis, but it is a big part about winning or losing.

The great players find ways to come through with break point opportunities, while also fighting off any break point opportunities given to their opponent.

Ultimately, it takes a good amount of skill, but also more than that. Having the right mindset during these important parts of the match is also crucial. Players are always trying to develop their break point strategies in a match, and executing can be extremely beneficial.

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