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http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2013/09/federers-last-stand.html

I'm not familiar with tennis so I don't know what he's talking about here with this. "goes down another break ?"

A wild misfire, and Roger Federer goes down another break in the second set.

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2 Answers 2

It means to lose a game that one served, and then to be behind one's opponent in terms of number of breaks won. To win a set (without having to resort to a tie-break), one needs to break one's opponent at least once, so to go down a break is a significant setback.

e.g. in the following passage, Smith goes down a break. Smith serves the first game:

Smith 1-0 Jones

Smith 1-1 Jones

Smith 1-2 Jones

Smith 1-3 Jones

Smith 2-3 Jones

Smith 3-3 Jones

Smith is serving the 3rd game, but loses it to Jones. Jones therefore breaks Smith and is one break down. Smith then wins the 6th game (on Jones's serve) - he breaks Jones back. However, Jones is not "a break down", because he broke Smith earlier, so they are simply level again.

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He's losing that set, yes. –  Spinner Sep 4 '13 at 9:44
    
@AndySmith Welcome to Sports SE. If this post answers your question, feel free to accept it. –  edmastermind29 Sep 4 '13 at 13:07
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Just a minor correction - you don't actually have to break your opponents serve to win a set - you could win the set in a tie-break 7 games to 6. –  jamauss Sep 4 '13 at 20:49
    
@jamauss Very true; as a matter of fact I said as much in my original answer, but decided (unwisely?) to edit out the reference to the tie-break, as I thought it would merely confuse matters (bearing in mind the original question). I'll put it back in. –  Spinner Sep 4 '13 at 21:42
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Funny how that works isn't it? "Wait! I don't want to confuse them or clutter up the answer...but...it's important...hmm..". I usually error on the side of TMI myself but still a good answer either way. –  jamauss Sep 4 '13 at 21:46

"In tennis, having the right to "serve" (put in play) the ball is a decided advantage, so players alternate serves between games, sharing this advantage. Between two almost evenly matched players, whoever serves will win most games, by "holding serve." But in the typical "set," the better of the two players will win an occasional game while the other person is serving, a result that is known as "breaking serve." [The person whose serve is broken is said to "go down a break."]

This, together with the fact that he or she is serving half the time and (presumably) holds all serves, means that the slightly better player will likely win the set by getting a majority of the games with a score of say, 6-4. If a player both holds serve and breaks serve consistently, the result could be a more lop-sided 6-0 tally that clearly demonstrates who is the better player."

Except for the boldfaced part in brackets, this tennis analogy was used years ago in a piece of mine on the stock market.

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I would remove the last sentence; it is unnecessary to the answer and feels like self-promotion. –  Joe Sep 5 at 14:27
    
If you're quoting yourself, you do not need to cite sources (it's yourself). If you're quoting someone else, cite them directly - but either way this feels like self promotion to me the way it's written. –  Joe Sep 5 at 14:33
    
@Joe: I took out the "my's" in the last sentence to reduce the promotion, and therefore feel an even greater need for attribution. –  Tom Au Sep 5 at 14:37
    
Um, that makes it worse from my point of view (and from the SE rules). Linking to a piece of yours and not saying it's yours is worse than linking and saying it's yours. –  Joe Sep 5 at 14:37
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If this were a piece relevant to sports, I think it would be fine to link to it. The fact that it's not relevant in any way is why I object: linking to it doesn't add any weight to the argument (it's not a tennis expert's article, or similar). That's the point of citing. Honestly if you'd cited some random financial expert's piece, it would just be a bad answer, just like if I cited a bit from Chris Rock in a football answer: there's no reason to believe what he says is relevant to football. –  Joe Sep 5 at 14:39

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