What is 135 Tennis Analytics?

The simple answer is that 135 represents the first 3 shots played by the server in a rally. It’s the most common sequence of shots in both men’s and women’s tennis.

The premise of 135 is that each shot is, more often than not, related to the one that came before it. So, shot 1 (the serve) sets up shot 3, which sets up shot 5.

Similarly, we refer to the returner’s first 3 shots as shot 2 (return of serve), shot 4 and shot 6. The prevalence of 135 over 246 patterns of play is due to the advantage of serving in the modern game.

In general, the server’s advantage is over by the time shot 7 comes around. That’s why the last of our rally lengths is 7+. It’s at that moment in the rally that the returner has, generally, neutralised the server’s advantage and the winner of the point comes down to who can produce the best pattern of play to, ultimately, win the point.

Notes on Rally Length

Most coaches, players and parents would be aware of the traditional rally lengths in tennis and how often they occur. They’re now on most of the TV networks, and the percentage they occur is also well known: 0-4 shots 70%, 5-8 shots 20%, 9+ 10%.

The implication being that developing tennis players need to practice shorter rally lengths rather than longer ones.

One of the problems with these numbers is that they don’t provide context to the player, nor any way of measuring how they’re progressing at these rally lengths – just that they exist.

On the other hand, 135 does this by relating shot 1 to shot 3, and shot 3 to shot 5. It’s an easier way to coach, and a much easier way for players to understand patterns of play.