Novak Djokovic demonstrates how to break serve

How to break serve in tennis – ‘Be aggressive’

Breaking serve is your ticket to winning matches, but how exactly should you approach taking the server on?

Top analyst Craig O’Shannessy of Brain Game Tennis has let Tennishead in on how to make the most of break point opportunities.

Read on to find out for yourself!

How to break serve 

Where do break points occur?

You might know this intuitively, but break points are not evenly distributed across the two sides of the court. Most break points occur on the Ad side. 

You’ve got 0-40, 30-40, and all of the Ads in the Ad court,” explains O’Shannessy. 

“So, around 75% of all break points occur in the Ad court.”

That is exactly why left-handed players have an advantage when facing break points.

They can swing a serve out wide to their right-handed opponent’s backhand, pushing them off the court.


Aggression is the name of the game at both ends of the court according to O’Shannessy.

“For the players that are serving down break point, quite often they feel like they’ve been backed into a corner,” he says.

“They’re a little bit more aggressive with the serve, they’re a little bit more aggressive with their serve plus one pattern.

“You’re getting into a bit of a fight right now where they’re like ‘I’m a little bit more aggressive.’

“You say ‘Fine, I’ll match that. I’ll come a little bit more aggressive.’”

Match aggression with aggression to elevate your play.

You cannot be happy with just getting the ball back in play.

At the same time, look to force an error rather than going for a big winner.

Visual aid

How to break serve – demonstrated by Tsitsipas & Davidovich Fokina

The 2022 Monte Carlo Masters was a roller coaster affair between defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and challenger Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Notice how the two players play when taking their opponent on for a break point.

In particular, look at the aggression from Tsitsipas at 4-4 and especially Davidovich Fokina when fighting to stay in the match and break back for 5-5 in the second set.


How to break serve – action summary

  • Expect the server to play bigger / bolder down a break point.
  • Heighten everything you do when these big points roll around. 
  • All the other points are a dress rehearsal to find the primary patterns to run on these points. 
  • Play to win.
    • Don’t expect the point to be handed to you
    • Go and grab these important points. 

Tennishead club competitionFor free access to Craig O’Shannessy’s complete courses on ‘25 Golden Rules of Singles‘ and ‘25 Golden Rules of Doubles‘, join thousands of other keen amateur tennis players and become a member of the Tennishead Club. Once you join we’ll immediately send you ground breaking coaching advice, a welcome pack including a full ASICS head to toe outfit including shoes, plus loads more. And it costs as little as £65/$97 to join with membership benefits worth over £600/$700 per year!

Craig O'Shannessy Novak DjokovicCraig O’Shannessy is the creator of Brain Game Tennis. For 20 years he’s been involved in tennis as a coach to players like Kevin Anderson and even Dustin Brown when he famously beat Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon. More recently Craig’s been working as a match analyst at Wimbledon and for the ATP Tour. He has also used the unique insights from his match analysis software dartfish to guide players such as Novak Djokovic with analysis of opponents and performances.

Visit to read the latest and best selling course ‘Getting Tight’ where Craig teams up with Jeff Greenwald to combine their specific skill sets to help you with the universal problem all players struggle with in matches.


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