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John Isner is among the best on the ATP World Tour at coming back from behind on serve.

Isner, Monfils Serve Their Way Out Of Trouble

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how the Top 20 fare when behind on serve

The Top 20 players in the world average a losing record holding serve from the precarious scoreline of 0/30.

The game is potentially half over, and for the majority at this elite level, their chances of holding serve have already dropped below 50 per cent. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the Top 20 from the 2016 season at 0/30, and the two nearby scorelines of 15/30 and 0/40, provide a fresh perspective of just how tough it is to hold serve once you fall behind by two points on the scoreboard.

The Top 20 average holding serve 49 per cent of the time from 0/30. American John Isner leads the field, holding a mind-blowing 70 per cent of the time. Others ahead of the pack include Ivo Karlovic (66 per cent), Stan Wawrinka (61 per cent) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (56 per cent).

The volatility of 0/30 sees a massive 46 percentage-point gap between Isner’s leading 70 per cent, and David Goffin, who managed to win only 34 per cent of his service games when falling behind 0/30.

The Best Among The Top 20 In 2016

Holding Serve From 0/30 Holding Serve From 15/30 Holding Serve From 0/40
John Isner              70% John Isner               80%  Gael Monfils        43%
Ivo Karlovic            66%  Ivo Karlovic             76% John Isner           38%
Stan Wawrinka       61%  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  71% Stan Wawrinka    35%
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 56%  Milos Raonic           70% Kei Nishikori        28% 

If the Top 20 won the 0/30 point, their chances of holding serve jumped sharply from 49 per cent to 64 per cent – a significant 15 percentage-point leap that now has every player in the Top 20 statistically favored to hold serve.

World No. 1 Andy Murray was slightly above the Top 20 average from 15/30, holding 65 per cent of the time, as was No. 2 Novak Djokovic (66 per cent), No. 3 Milos Raonic (70 per cent) and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka (68 per cent).

If the Top 20 lost the 0/30 point to drop to 0/40, their win percentage of holding serve plummeted down to 22 per cent. No Top 20 players won more games than they lost from this deep hole.

The best performer of the Top 20 holding serve from 0/40 in 2016 was Gael Monfils, who held 12 of 28 times for a commanding 43 per cent average. Kei Nishikori was another stand-out from 0/40, holding 28 per cent of the time, as was Nick Kyrgios at 25 per cent.

It is interesting to see the sizable fluctuations in players’ fortunes of holding serve from either 15/30 or 0/40. Both Murray and Karlovic had a sizable 55 percentage-point difference of holding between the two scorelines, with Tomas Berdych close at 51 percentage points. The smallest gap by far was Monfils, at only 13 percentage points – 56 per cent at 15/30 to 43 per cent at 0/40.

Tennis is a game of feel and touch, but it’s also a game of patterns and percentages, and the more we know about these crucial scorelines, the easier it will be to successfully navigate them in the future.

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