Set-up Points and The Rule of Two (Consecutive Points)

In last year’s “Be the Closer” article, I claimed that the most important point in platform tennis is game point. I outline the reasons for that here:

In the paragraphs below, I will further explore the flow of points and importance of score dynamics. I will first address the “set-up point” – the second most important point in a given game (after game point). Set-up point is the point that PRECEDES game point, i.e. any point that you play once EITHER team reaches “30” on the scoreboard: 0-30, 30-0, 15-30, 30-15, 30-30. In other words, set-up points are those points where either team (or both teams if the score is 30-30) is within one point of game point. The reason why “set-up points” are so important is because they set-up game point. Let’s take the “0-30” score for example: the next point is a “set-up point” because one team already has 30 on the scoreboard. The next point will make a HUGE difference in the economy of that game, and, ultimately, in the economy of the whole match. After the set-up point is played, the score will be either “0-40”, or “15-30” – there is a HUGE difference between those two scores. What is that difference exactly!? That’s right, the set-up point! Whoever wins the set-up point will be in a much better position than the alternative (losing the set-up point). I doubt anyone will disagree with that. Conversely, if the score is “30-15”, the next point that will be played will also be a set-up point (again, because one team already has 30). If that team wins the set-up point then the score becomes 40-15, if they lose it, the score becomes 30-30. Again, huge difference between 40-15 and 30-30, agree!? If the score becomes 30-30, the next point is also a set-up point because whoever wins it gets to game point – the single most important point of all! Obviously, it is preferable to find ourselves playing most of the “set-up” points from positive (30-0, 30-15) or neutral scores instead of negative ones (0-30, 15-30).

Now that we understand set-up points, let’s get even more granular and talk about the Rule of Two (consecutive points) – this is where things are about to get really interesting!

There are 18 possible score situations/combinations that can happen in a given game:

0-0 0-30 0-40
0-15 30-0 40-0
15-0 15-30 15-40
15-15 30-15 40-15
30-30 30-40
40-40 (deuce)
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Take a couple of minutes (do not cheat by reading further below just yet!) and see if you can figure out under how many score situations IF YOU LOSE TWO CONSECUTIVE POINTS your opponents WILL NOT win that game outright OR get to game point!? Take two minutes and see if you can come up with the right answer.

The correct answer: there are only FIVE score situations under which if you lose two consecutive points your opponents will not win the game outright or get to game point:

0-0, if you lose two consecutive points, the score becomes 30-30,
15-0, if you lose two consecutive points, the score becomes 15-30
30-0, if you lose two consecutive points, the score becomes 30-30
40-0, if you lose two consecutive points, the score becomes 40-30
40-15, if you lose two consecutive points, the score becomes 40-40

The bottom line: under only 28% of all possible score situations (the five score combinations mentioned above) you can afford to lose two consecutive points without handing your opponents the game OR allowing them to get to game point. Under the remaining 72% of all possible score situations (the other thirteen score combinations), if you lose two consecutive points, your opponents will either win the game outright or get to game point. In either scenario, whichever team is able to win two consecutive points more often will be in much better shape to win games. Try to string together two consecutive points as often as possible and that will not only win you games or put you in a position to win games by getting you to game point but it will also help you be more aware and understand the flow and dynamics of the score.

by Alex Bancila