What Is a Break Point in Tennis?

Tennis is incredibly fun to watch even when you're not totally sure what's going on — but it's even more gripping when you're in the know. During the 2023 US Open, the match between Coco Gauff and Laura Siegemund was undeniably high energy. But understanding the rules around time violations — and how Siegemund was pushing them — added a whole other layer of interest and tension. And another term that can help you better understand the game and how tennis scoring works is break point.

What Is a Break Point in Tennis?

A break point occurs when two conditions are met: 1) one player is one point away from a win, and 2) their opponent is serving. Essentially, in order to win the game — and inch closer to winning the set and match — the player must "break" their opponent's serve.

There are four possible scoring combinations that could give rise to a break point: 0-40, 15-40, 30-40, or when the server does not have the advantage in a deuce. (A deuce occurs when the score is tied 40-40. To break the tie, someone must score two points in a row. A player gains the advantage when they've scored one.).

When the server hasn't yet scored a point (so the score is 0-40), it's known as a triple break point, because the returner must win one of the next three points to win the game; a 15-40 score is known as a double break point, and 30-40 score is a single break point.

Why Are Break Points in Tennis Important?

Winning the break point means winning the game, but that's not as easy as it sounds. It's harder to win when your opponent is serving, because a strong serve can put the returner on the defensive or disrupt their strategic placement. That's why a break point is a particularly tense moment: you've got one person with the scoring advantage but not the serving advantage, and another person trying to seize their last chance to keep the game alive — sometimes with an Olympic medal on the line.