© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Novak Djokovic doesn't stay down after losing his serve.

Djokovic & Nadal: The Break-Back Kings

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Djokovic and Nadal stay positive even after losing serve

When the going gets tough, the tough break straight back.

Dropping serve is typically accompanied with an emotional letdown. But for some players, determination triumphs over disappointment and the desire to immediately break straight back helps them actually break serve more than they typically do.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the 2019 season identifies Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were in a class of their own breaking back immediately after being broken. In fact, both players broke back at a higher rate right after being broken than normal and were ranked in the top two this season in this specific category.

2019 Season: Breaking Serve Scenarios For Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic


Breaking Straight Back

All Other Break Scenarios

N. Djokovic

37.23% (35/94)

31.05% (218/702)

R. Nadal

37.14% (26/70)

34.73% (224/645)

The data set comprises all players on Tour who played a minimum of 10 matches for the season. The only other two players in 2019 who managed to break back 30 per cent of the time or better were Kei Nishikori (34.21%) and Andrey Rublev (30%).

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When you look back a little further and expand the data set to the past five years (2015-2019), a familiar face jumps up to third place – Andy Murray.

The Scot played 85 matches in 2015 and 87 matches in 2016, but took time away from the game after Wimbledon in 2017 with a hip injury that required multiple surgeries. He successfully returned to Tour this year and was voted 2019 Comeback Player of the Year.

2015-2019: Breaking Straight Back


Breaking Straight Back

R. Nadal

33.98% (158/465)

N. Djokovic

33.84% (155/458)

A. Murray

30.33% (128/422)

Murray is the leader in this specific metric in two of the past five years, just scraping in for eligibility in the data set in 2018 with 13 matches played. That year he broke back a stunning 40 per cent (14/35) of the time. Murray’s abbreviated 2018 schedule started in June at the Fever-Tree Championships and ended in September at the Shenzhen Open.

2015-2019: Tour Leader Breaking Straight Back



Breaking Straight Back



N. Djokovic




A. Murray




D. Schwartzman




A. Murray




N. Djokovic



Getting broken is inevitable. Breaking straight back is optional, and a lot of times it just comes down to staying positive in a tough situation.