In a competitive tennis match against a good server, a break point is the moment you’ve been waiting for, the opportunity to win a game while your opponent is serving. In a tournament, break-point situations are tense moments in which the match is on the line. You probably won’t sweat as much when you reach break point in a casual match, but if pride or bragging rights are at stake, break points are key moments when you need to play your best.
In tennis language, when a server loses a game her opponent has “broken” her serve. So anytime you’re one point away from winning a game while your opponent serves, you have a break point. A break point occurs when the game score is 0-40, 15-40, 30-40 or when the returner has the advantage in a deuce game. A 0-40 score is known as “triple break point” because you must only win one of the next three points to win the game, while a 15-40 score is referred to as “double break point.”
Winning a Game
If you win the break point, you win the game. So at its most basic, a break point offers you the chance to move one step closer to winning the set and the match. It’s often more difficult to win a game when your opponent serves because a good server has several advantages. First, the server may hit such a good shot that you can’t return it. Additionally, a well-placed serve can leave you out of position for your next shot, or a hard serve can literally place you on the defensive. In a match between two good servers, one service break is often the difference between ultimate victory and defeat.
In addition to the practical advantage of simply winning a game, a break point may offer the opportunity to gain a psychological edge on your opponent. If your opponent is a strong server, she may be counting on holding all her serves. Breaking her serve can upset her plan and throw her off her game, because she’s now under pressure to try to break your serve if she hopes to win the set.
You have several strategic options when you achieve a break point. You can continue to use the strategy that got you to the break-point situation. You can become more aggressive and try to hit a quick winner to end the game. Or you can play more conservatively, hoping the pressure of the break point will force your opponent into a mistake. As a server, you may be tempted to go all out for a service winner when you face a break point. This is only a solid strategy if you have confidence in your second serve, because you don’t want to give away a service game with a double fault.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.