A Bright Spot For Returners
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers examines who has the advantage when game scores go back and forth
In tennis, the server starts the game with an advantage, but if the game is tied after more than a few points, it's the returner who benefits more.
The point score in a game can be equal on at least five junctures, including 0-0, 15-all, 30-all, deuce and subsequent deuces, which we'll call “two+ deuces”.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the current Top 10 players in the Emirates ATP Rankings reveals that their average chance of holding serve when tied drops the further into the game they compete. As the finish line of the game races closer to conclusion, the returner benefits more from having to win fewer points to win the game.
Not all players produced the same hold of serve metrics, though, with some actually performing better having to navigate through multiple deuces rather than just a single deuce. Tomas Berdych jumped four percentage points from 83 per cent to 87 per cent when he had to battle through more than one deuce. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic rose three percentage points, 83 per cent to 86 per cent, showing his mental toughness to hold as the returner extended his service games.
Top 10: Percentage Chance of Holding Serve by Point Score
In the Top 10, only Berdych had a higher chance of holding from 15/15 than 0/0 (86 per cent to 84 per cent), while only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a better chance of holding from 30/30 than he did at 15/15 (85 per cent to 84 per cent).
Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka all fared better holding from deuce than 30/30, with half of the Top 10 holding at a better rate with “two+ deuces” in their service game rather than a single deuce.
Overall, the Top 10 combined to average a lower win percentage with an even scoreline the closer the game got to be completed.
Holding Serve: Top 10 Average Percentage Drop
From 0/0 to 15/15 = 2.4 percentage point drop (86.0% to 83.6%)
From 15/15 to 30/30 = 2.4 percentage point drop (83.6% to 81.2%)
From 30/30 to Deuce = 1.5 percentage point drop (81.2% to 79.7%)
From Deuce to 2+ Deuces = 0.1 percentage points drop (79.7% to 79.6%).
We play a game of very small margins. This is encouraging news for players matched up against the Top 10 week in and week out. The longer you can stay even in the game, the better chance you have of breaking.