5

Suppose you're down a couple break points in a set, so you have no reasonable chance of winning it. You are serving in what would be the sixth (and set) game for your opponent.

If you win the game, your opponent will have to serve for the sixth game, and you get to go onto to the next set with the serve. If you lose, your opponent serves first in the next set.

Yet, I've seen top players even at the grand slam events tacitly concede that sixth game, while on serve. Apparently they want to get to the next set. But why would they do this? If the server has the advantage, why not try to take advantage of this for a (relatively) easy win?

Conversely, if you're down 5-1, with the opponent on serve, might it make sense to concede the game on the opponent's serve to get to the next set with you on serve?

  • This seems related: Do players lose a point in a game on purpose as part of strategy? – Martin Aug 29 '14 at 18:26
  • Sampras was a master at this, kind of thing (the original meaning of 'percentage tennis'): never winning more games than necessary except via gifts from the opponent. His W final against Ivanesevic is a case in point: he specifically stated that he was 'gonna kinda give him his last service game' at 5-2 up but Goran obliged with a bad service game so Sampras won it 6-2. – user207421 Jul 2 '16 at 4:25
  • My personal experience. On the weekend I was down 5-2 with 2 sets points against me on my serve. I worked hard to hold and got the score to 5-5. I eventually lost 7-5. Worked hard again to win the second set 6-4, but at 2-1 in the third I lost my way to lose the set easily. Looking back I should have not played those 4 extra games in the first set and save energy to use that in the 3rd set. – aqwert Sep 12 '17 at 22:31
3

There is definitely some element of energy conservation that some players think about and so they don't put forth much effort in trying to stay in a losing set. They would rather just move on to the next set and mentally "reset" and focus on trying to improve their game in the next set instead of spending that energy (both physical and mental) on a somewhat lost cause of a set.

As you stated, it is advantageous to start serving the next set so it is the most ideal situation for a player to make his opponent hold serve to end a set, so they can serve first in the next set and play from the lead, so to speak. However, sometimes they don't even care to force their opponent to serve out the set. It depends on the match and the players involved. Competitiveness and attitudes vary widely even among the pro ranks.

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