The Psychology Of Break Points In Tennis
Now we know that break points are important to win, or save, if you want to win more tennis matches. They are often a turning point, and can provide a clear route to winning a set.
As a general rule, you probably want to approach saving a break point with a decisive and attacking, yet high-percentage, first serve. This is why big servers such as Milos Raonic and John Isner make the top three in the ‘break points saved’ statistic.
Also, whether trying to secure or save a break point, it’s a good idea to take a mental note of your opponent’s weaknesses beforehand. For example, if you spot a weak response to lobbed shots during a rally, you could save up a nice lob for when you really need to secure a break point.
Alternatively, if you don’t know much about your opponent, you can choose to focus on remaining patient, returning cleanly, and waiting for a high-percentage opportunity to attack.
It goes without saying that you will come up against some players who will be relying on their strong serve to get them through a match. If you can push these players to a break point on their serve, it will cause them some discomfort.
You can multiply that if you manage to win the break point! Making a quick start to your next service game can gain you a psychological advantage that wins you the match.
We’ve put together some popular suggestions on how to approach important points in a match, whether it be a break point, serving to stay in the match or serving for a set:
- Don’t rush your play: It is common in beginners to rush the beginning of an important point, to get over the feelings of anxiety that go with it. You can be assured that your best chances of success rely on you being able to complete your usual pre-point ritual! Big players such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are even known to slow down before a big point, just to collect their thoughts and make sure they are in the zone.
- Stay consistent: During the point, keep your play consistent with how it has been previously. In juniors and beginners, it is typical to see a forced attempt at a big winner, or something risky like a drop shot.
- Stick to what you know: The best thing you can do during a break point or any other big point, is to stick to what you do best. Continue doing whatever works well for you, and avoid the temptation to speed the point up.
- Play on your terms: Especially if playing against a strong opponent, hoping for an unforced error on their part isn’t enough. You should still execute your plans and approach the point with a fairly attacking mindset, especially if saving a break point. In this scenario, having the serve will allow you to dictate the initial flow of the rally.
The tactic of winning or saving break points by repeating what has worked well for you during the match is a common theme amongst tennis enthusiasts.