Playing the 10-Point Tiebreaker

More leagues, more tournaments, and even the pros are now “defaulting” to using the 10-point tiebreaker in place of a full third set.  So, should you just roll the dice or what should be your strategy to be more successful than not in these deciding ten points?

Same or Different?

The usual advice is “play the same game that got you there.”  In fact, you had to be modestly successful so far, because by definition you have split sets to get to this point.

But let’s say that you won the first set easily; but the other team then blew you out in the second set 6-1.  There has to be some “lesson” in the second set loss that you want to change in the tie breaker.  Or conversely, you lost the first but YOU came back strong in the second.  What changed?

Offense Wins

My basic philosophy is “The team that has the offense at the end, wins!”  Too many teams get conservative during a match tiebreaker and allow their opponents to gain the offense.

And what if you fall behind a “mini break” (TV announcer terminology that I do not like.  I would rather they called it a “point break”)? Different from the 7-point set tiebreaker, the 10-pointer allows for more “come backs” before reaching ten points.  So don’t sweat the slight score difference, just maintain your offensive push point by point.

Other thoughts on how to best play these match deciders??

PS Thanks to Steve Diamond for the post idea.

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me!

7 thoughts on “Playing the 10-Point Tiebreaker

  1. Two lessons learned personally (and sometimes happily, sometimes aggravatingly at Newks): 1) Concentrate and focus hard, get out to an early lead, and try hard to maintain that edge because as sure as the sun will rise your opponent/s will come roaring back before you reach 10 points; 2) if you get down, remember Churchill – never, never, never, never give up.

    Marty, yes, focus without tightening up! Thanks. George

  2. personally, i think the 10-point tiebreaker in lieu of a 3rd set is the biggest change ive seen in my competitive tennis experience. these days, if you win 1 set, you’re guaranteed to play a breaker to decide the match. the best team doesnt always win because there’s quite a bit of luck involved. overall, it’s probably a good thing, but that doesn’t diminish it’s impact.
    i have also noticed that all these years of playing 7-point breakers effect the momentum swings that seem to happen in the 10 pointers. teams will be up 5-1 or 6-1, and then next thing you know the score evens out. i think the reason for this is that when a team gets up by that score (close to the 7 points needed in that tiebreaker), they naturally relax while the other team “fights for their life”. the next thing you know, the score is much closer.
    my question is, have other players experienced this?

    Joe, I agree, the tiebreaker he is really a crapshoot. And the momentum swings is the exact reason Steve suggested the topic. Thanks, George

  3. High percentage shots on all shots in tiebreakers usually wins….”Down the middle, solves the riddle ” has worked more often than naught! Be offensive, aggressive but smart! Let them make the mistakes.

    Paul, “controlled aggression” is usually the right play. Thanks, George

  4. Before I’m about to go into a 10 pointer, I just keep hearing Brad Gilbert saying “Do what ever it takes to win the first two points!”

    Jim, good advice. george

  5. For doubles, any time we get ahead, my partner and I “reverse the score”. If up 7-4, we talk about being down 7-4…and play accordingly.

    Keeps us focused on every point…and we always talk between points because those “senior moments” make it hard to remember the “flipped” score.

    Kirk, i have always wondered about that… do you really end up believing that you are behind when you are really ahead? Or do you just try to play like you are losing? thanks, george

  6. My attitude playing tie-breakers is to play each point like a break point on my serve. I take a little extra time, focus extra on getting first serve in or return back in play and move my feet quicker. ready to get anything. If I fall behind I mentally consider it another break point. If I get up a break I tell myself this next one is the key point. Take your time make sure you are ready get first serve in or return back regardless. Every point is crucial. If I get up more then one break. Nothing changes. Next point is the most important point of match. That is exactly what I am telling myself.

    Randy, that point-by-point focus is often neglected, but critical. thanks, george

  7. A commentator asked Jim Courier what his strategy was when playing a Tie-breaker, and I really liked his answer, which was something like this: In a TB, you need to hold serve, and you need to break the other guy at least once. His strategy was to play high percentage tennis when he was serving in order to hold serve. When he was receiving he would take more chances and play more aggressively in order to get that one break.

    terry, good advice! thanks, george

Comments are closed.