The Most Important Point

Craig O’Shannessy

During a game of tennis, what do you think is the most important point?  There are a variety of opinions; but here is one from tennis’ “statistics guru” based on his study of the pros (in support of his client, Novak Djokovic).

Serving at 30-30

“Win the 30-30 point and the percentages are overwhelmingly in your favor to hold serve. Lose the point, and the odds now say you are more likely to get broken,” says Craig O’Shannessy, on his Brain Game Tennis website.

Here Are the Numbers..

Top 10 Players in 2019

  • Holding from 30-30 = 80%
  • Holding from 40-30 = 93%
  • Holding from 30-40 = 49%

“The gap difference between holding from 40-30 (93%) and 30-40 (49%) = 44 percentage points = A MASSIVE DIFFERENCE!

“So… how much risk should you take on board when serving at 30-30? Is it a good time to go for an ace and to play big, or is it better to play the percentages and make a first serve and look for a Serve +1 forehand?

“When you find yourself serving at 30-30, there are a number of elements that come into play.

  • Do you have a specific serve direction you know you can make?
  • Does the opponent have a significantly weaker return side?
  • Is it a good time for a surprise serve location?
  • Is your opponent stepping in and attacking your serve?
  • Where should you serve to bring the ball back where you want it?
  • All factors to consider…

“When you arrive at 30-30, think of the outcome of the point like a fork in the road, where one pathway gives you an excellent chance of holding serve, while the other road is basically a coin flip to decide if you are going to hold serve.

“Pro players can serve much more at the corners at 30-30, because they have the proficiency to do so. I want you to serve more at the body at 30-30, which will improve the percentages that you will make the serve. Going jam forehand or jam backhand both work, so you will need to figure out which direction makes the opponent more uncomfortable.

“If the return is made, your opponent will probably be aiming towards the middle of the court to your backhand side. I want you to run around this backhand and upgrade to a forehand and then go deep to your opponent’s backhand to push them back where they can’t hurt you. Win the court position battle first, and then you can start to focus on forcing an error or hitting a winner.”

My Two Cents

In my opinion, the most under rated important point in a game is 15-30… win that point and you can then face Craig’s positive stats above.  But, lose that point and you are facing a steep hill to climb at 15-40, double break point.

What do you think about critical points?

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7 thoughts on “The Most Important Point

  1. I’m with you George. In Brad Gilbert’s book “Winning Ugly…. ” he feels the most crucial point is 15-30 or 30-15 serving or receiving…..
    The first situation like you mention above. If serving 30-15, win the next one and you’ve got 2 chances to finish the game. Receiving 30-15, win and you are even and the server doesn’t have the previous situation. Receiving 15-30, win and you have 2 chances to take the break with huge pressure on the server.

    Tom, that is exactly what i think! But with your great serve, you may change the odds. Thanks, george

  2. I always try very hard to win the first point of the whole match – it gives you a psychological edge right from the start!

    Andy, it is one of those that gets a lot of votes… especially when serving at 5-4 or 4-5. Thanks, george

  3. While the theory’s probably holds true for all players… my opinion no way do those percentages hold true for us mere mortals playing 70+ tennis on hard tru.

    The serve is much less of a factor…for those of us that had big and productive serves when we were younger playing on hard courts…much less so in our 70’s on hard tru.

    When I am receiving at 30-40…no way am I am thinking I only have a 7% chance of winning that game.

    Of course, to be fair it has been a few years since I have played singles, be interested to hear how others feels this relates to doubles.

    Dave, no doubt, the quality of the serve is a HUGE factor in holding/losing serve. Some players just “put the ball in play” with their serve (in singles and doubles), so the point starts off at neutral every time. thanks, george

  4. Terrific stuff, George. Craig’s data is fascinating. Wow, such a swing in the wake of the outcome of the 30-30 point. And you are so right about the 15-30 point, but do you really think it’s underrated, as in overlooked or not taken seriously? I suspect everyone concurs on its significance. But the sad thing in tennis is that a great many players of all levels have very little self-awareness of their range of skills. Parallel to that: incredible ignorance about which tactics to deploy on those various occasions and, even worse, little desire to invest time in building technical skills. Even Craig’s example of how to play that 30-30 point is based on a player having enough skill to effectively run around the return and powerfully smack that inside-out forehand well enough to truly damage the opponent. And, of course, as a lefty myself, many of these points compel different tactics (and skill-building). But still, this is a great topic.

    Joel, great to hear from you. Yes i agree… many club players don’t think strategically during play… they just play. thanks, george

  5. Over the course of a match there will be many 30-30 points. I’m sure many players just look at that score situation as just another routine but important point. If that point is consistently won, it puts cumulative pressure on the opponent to come up with a “best performance” on the following game point. Sometimes it will bring out the opponent’s best execution, but if that situation begins leading to errors, it can lead to the breakdown of the opponent’s weapons and the unraveling of the level of their game. For that reason I think it heightens the importance of the 30-30 point outcome (and, if I remember right, I think Brad Gilbert spoke of this in his book, “Winning Ugly”).

    Dag, consistent play (like you perform) can and does put more pressure on the opponent to “do more.” Thanks, george

  6. Can’t help but say it: The most important point is the one you are about to play!
    Most of the time, when you think of anything else, you get into your own way.

    Spike, i was waiting for someone to say that!! That is how Rafa plays. thanks, george

  7. Joel’s wicked and scurvy southpaw game upends any logical approach to these stats. Probably better to dropshot him at all opportunities. Stay safe everybody.

    Dan, he will seek his revenge in October. George

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