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Whats the score?

Key points to win in each game.
By: Peter D. McCraw

This article is the first in a two part series on the Score in tennis.  In this article I look at how winning a few key points within each game can greatly enhance the odds of holding and breaking serve.

The first mistake players make when playing a match is they believe the majority of points have equal weighting.  That is, 15-15 is the same as 30-30 and 15-0 is no different to 30-15.  Initially it appears that there only two types of points - game points and the rest.

The Score

Remarkably the modern day scoring system dates back as far as 1874 when the first tennis equipment and rules for playing tennis were patented.  The scoring in tennis is simple; to win a game one side must score four points and lead by at least two, if the score is deuce one side must lead by two points. 

To win a set, one side must win six games and lead by at least two.  If the score is 5-5, play continues until one side has a two game margin or if the score is 6-6, a tie-breaker is played.  At the club level the first side to win two sets wins the match.

Game Score

While most players would agree that all points are important, there are a number of points in addition to ‘game’ and ‘set’ points that have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a match.  Let’s see what they are.

While most opponents recognise the importance of game points, only a few will give the same attention to the point that precedes a game point - called a setup point. 

Setup Points

There are potentially 4 setup points within each game, 30-0, 30-15, 30-30 and deuce.  While the opportunities at 30-30 and deuce are obvious, most players do not approach 30-0 and 30-15 with the same attitude.

Let’s look at how the dynamics of the game change and when the important setup points arise. 

If the score is 30-0, the first setup point occurs on the 3rd point of the game.  If  you win it, the score is 40-0,  then the 4th point gives you a chance to win the game for the first time.
If the score is 30-15, the first setup point occurs on the 4th point to the player who is 30-15 up.    Now by being 30-15 up you have a double setup point, one at 30-15 on the 4th point and another at 30-30 on the 5th point.

If the score is 30-30 or deuce both players have a setup point.  The player who wins this point is then 1 point away from winning the game, while their opponent is 3 points away.

It should now be clear that the 4th point of the game holds the key to gaining the first strategic advantage over your opponent.  The 4th point gives you either a setup point or game point opportunity for the first time.

First 3 Points

The essence of each game comes down to the first three points.  You should aim to be in a position to capitalise on the 4th point advantage, because after that the stakes change dramatically.  

On every point played after the 4th, either player will have a setup point, or a chance to win the game.

To give you an example of just how important game and break points are, currently the World No.1 Roger Federer holds serve 90% of the time when he has a game point, but only saves 70% of break points faced when serving.  This illustrates that one of the best players in the world has trouble holding serve when faced with break points.  

The 4th Point

The first game point or break point opportunity occurs on the 4th point and that’s why it’s so important.  Generally the player who has more game point opportunity's first, wins the match. 

To hold serve and break your opponent more often you must begin to recognise the opportunities that come from the 4 setup points in each game. 
You must also understand the significance of the 4th point and use it to grab the first strategic advantage over your opponent. 

In the second article I will look at the dynamics of the game score within each set, and reveal some simple tactics you can use when playing tiebreakers.

Peter D. McCraw is an expert in world-class athlete development.  He founded the ‘CBD Model – Competitive Based Development for Tennis.  He is a coach educator, leading tennis researcher and world-renowned developmental coach.  Peter is Australian born and currently the National Director of Coaching for Tennis New Zealand.  He makes regular trips to the UK and is available for club consultancies, player assessments and coach mentoring.  His website is








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