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justice for all
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Some commentators, tennis players, pundits say it's an advantage to serve first in the fifth set in BO5.

Do you think there is a real advantage (mostly psychological) or is it a myth?

When things get tight at *4-5 or *5-6 and so on is the serving player under a bigger pressure compared to his opponent serving at 4-4* or 5-5*?

Or it's just an urban legend and the result will depend on different aspects like tiredness, overall serve/ ROS efficiency/ overall mental toughness, etc.?

What do you think?
 

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Obviously no one is saying it's a deciding factor but put it this way - would any professional player with a half decent serve choose to return first if they had a choice?
 

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I think a research should be done to confirm this theory (i.e. all BO5 matches, with a score 4-4 or 5-5 in the 5th). But yeah, I tend to agree with this. Since 4-5 the player who serves 2nd is under permanent pressure on his serve. OTOH the player who serves 1st is always in the lead and knows that even getting broken doesn't end the match immediately (he still has a chance in the following game). Plus it's always more difficult (mentally) to finish the match when serving (case of the 2nd player).
 

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Obviously no one is saying it's a deciding factor but put it this way - would any professional player with a half decent serve choose to return first if they had a choice?
Lots of players don't try too hard to break serve at the end of the 2nd/4th set despite that giving them the advantage of serving first in the decider.
 

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It certainly is an advantage, for two reasons.

First off, and most importantly, is that if your serve gets broken you have the chance to break back. If you are serving at *4-4 and your opponent breaks, you now get an opportunity (also with a change-over in between where the pressure can mount on them) to come out and break to even it out.

Second, there definitely is that added factor of "scoreboard pressure" that comes up late in a contest. Players typically change their styles slightly when their backs are against the wall, ie. at 30-30 in a game where they will lose the match if they are broken. Play a bit more conservative or try to keep the ball in play rather than go for winners.

I lived off tennis gambling for 5 years before now being a sportsbook manager, so I have watched 1000s of hours of tennis and studied all the trends to get any advantage.
 

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Certainly when it gets to sudden death and you only have to win 2 games straight to win, serving first you can maybe play a bit more freely knowing that if you did get broken you still have a bit of a safety net to fall back on, whereas you don't get that luxury if you serve 2nd.

serving 2nd all these times while trying to stay in the match will also be much more mentally draining, it still to this day amazes me that Mahut managed to hold serve 64 times to stay in the match against Isner.
 

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"In conclusion, there does appear to be a small advantage to be gained from serving in the first game of the first set, but the advantage evaporates when the two players are evenly matched.

In the deciding set, the result is independent of whether a player serves in the first game of the set, and this holds true for matches between players who are evenly matched as well."

https://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/blog/keys-match-tennis-it-advantage-serve-first




Doesn't make intuitive sense to me either, but a lot of tennis' common beliefs are like this - when you examine them they evaporate.
 

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I doubt anything conclusive could be drawn, even if he had the stats.
It's really individual. First, the strength of the serve and the confidence in holding differs from player to player. Second, some cope with the pressure and play better leading and others are better trailing. Every player should understand what's beneficial to him/her, and that's all.
 

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Obviously, massive advantage. Anyone who's ever played sports competitively would know. There isn't anything favorable about going second.
 

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Going second can be favourable in the beginning of a set if the player prefers to receive first. There is pressure on the server to start a set without getting broken. But pales in comparison to serving second from 4-5 onward.
 

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I'm sure there was a thread about this topic already. IIRC the player receiving first has actually won slightly more matches than vice versa, but nothing significant. The same with penalty shootouts, you will always hear people explaining why it's an advantage to shoot first or second. Funnily always dependant on which party has currently won a couple of shootouts in a row...
 

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justice for all
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Discussion Starter #14
I'm sure there was a thread about this topic already. IIRC the player receiving first has actually won slightly more matches than vice versa, but nothing significant. The same with penalty shootouts, you will always hear people explaining why it's an advantage to shoot first or second. Funnily always dependant on which party has currently won a couple of shootouts in a row...
That would be quite interesting. As @monfed pointed out actually at the beginning of the fifth set the pressure might be more on the player who serves first to hold two times before the first break. From then on maybe it evens out and by the end of the match when one needs to serve to stay in the match the advantage may lean towards the one who serves first.
 

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Statistically speaking, there is no advantage. According to IBM Analytics, 49.4% of men who served first won the deciding set; this number is 48.6% for women



http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/blog/keys-match-tennis-it-advantage-serve-first

The data set for advantage sets that go beyond 6-6 is a lot more limited, but it's still basically 50/50

The result is a pool of 138 matches in which the fifth set ended at 8-6 or higher and we know who served first. Of those, the guy who served first–at 0-0, 1-1, 6-6, and so on–won the match 67 times (48.6%). It’s a coin toss.

If two guys have gotten to 6-6 in the fifth set, they’re playing as equally as two tennis players can play.


Serving First in Marathon Sets ? Heavy Topspin
 

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It depends of the player, I think. But yes, someone with a middle/bad serve is always under pressure in the fifth. In fact, it was very strange during the Anderson/Federer because Fed served in first in the fifth.
Anderson also beat Isner serving second

The advantage is a myth that's unfortunately very pervasive.

I saw a couple of Nadal fans claiming he lost the Wimbledon semi because he served second. If anything, Rafa prefers to start the set receiving
 

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I do think it's an advantage although of course dosen't mean the player serving first in a set will always win it as depends on many factors.

Big match in recent times that springs to my mind would be Murray-Federer at Wimbledon in 2015. Think Murray lost his serve when he was serving to stay in every set after having relatively comfortable time earlier in all the sets.
 

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It depends on the players really. Personally, I have always preferred it if any of the players I'm supporting started serving first in any set. In truth, some players prefer serving second. As the data shows, it does not matter much, as there are a lot of factors that are involved in a tennis match.
 
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