Perhaps the gentle nature of tennis from a viewer’s point of view lulls some people into a false sense of just how much of a physically demanding sport it is. They can be expected to run anywhere between one and a half and four miles per match, depending on a number of factors, all whilst using their arms in a manner akin to top-level boxers. In other words, players have to be incredibly fit to be successful.
A player taking a two-set to love lead in a match might seem as if they’ve got it in the bag, but the physical exertions of playing can soon begin to take their toll. As a result, it is not unheard of for a player to lose that two-set lead, finding themselves back at two-sets-all and needing to find the energy in their reserves to go again to win the match. The question is, just how often does that happen?
How Many Players Lose After Taking a 2-0 Lead in the Grand Slams?
In the last five editions of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, 96 players have lost after taking a two set lead, 3.78% of all matches.
The US Open has seen the most comebacks in this time with 29, followed by the Australian Open with 25, the French Open with 22, with Wimbledon having the fewest with just 20.
It’s All About The Men’s Singles
When female tennis players were demanding equal prize money to the men at tournaments such as Wimbledon, one of the dissenting arguments came from the fact that they don’t need to play as much tennis as their male counterparts. During the Grand Slams such as Wimbledon, the women play the best of three sets whilst the men play the best of five. This means that a woman going two sets up has won, but a man has not.
In the men’s game, players need to win three sets in order to be declared as the winners of their match, meaning that they can win 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2. As a result, going two-sets to the good is not a de-facto guarantee that a male player will win their match and instead they need to secure victory by winning that all-important third set. Dropping even one set can lead to men thinking that their lead might just slip away.
For that reason, tennis is a sport that tests a player’s mental attributes as much as their physical ones. Generally speaking, it is only the Grand Slam tournaments that ask male tennis players to play best-of-five matches. The likes of the Summer Olympics and lesser tour competitions follow the same rules as the women’s game in making matches a best-of-three situation, which is obviously less physically and mentally demanding.
Players Losing After a 2-0 Lead
Given the need for a player to win three sets at male Grand Slam tournaments in order to be crowned champion, it is not uncommon for men to take a 2-0 lead. It is less common for them to throw such a lead away, but it would be untrue to say that it is entirely unheard of. As a result, we’re going to have a look at the four Grand Slam tournaments across the past five tournaments played and find out how often a player has lost from 2-0 up.
For the purposes of ease, we’re only going to look at the tournaments proper, meaning that any qualifying stages will have been removed from the equation before we look at the data.
Before we look each of the tournaments in detail, we will have a look at them side by side to see which ones have had the most comebacks from a two-love scoreline. Because Wimbledon wasn’t played in 2020, we’ve taken the last 5 tournaments at each, up to and including 2021. It is slightly complicated by the years in question being different, but it’s still interesting to see how some Grand Slam competitions seem to boast more comebacks than others. Here’s a look at the four Grand Slams in question.
Put side-by-side in such a manner, you can clearly see that the US Open boasts significantly more comebacks from 2-0 down than any of the other Grand Slams, though it’s also fair to say that they’re all quite similar in real terms. Wimbledon has the fewest such wins, which might be explained by the fact that it’s played on a grass court and is the only one of the Grand Slams in which that is the case.
That being said, it’s interesting to note that both the Australian Open and the US Open are played on hard courts, yet there is a difference of four matches between them in terms of comebacks from two sets to love down. As a result, it can’t be just down to the surface. Of course, the Australian Open is the next highest after the US Open, so surface undoubtedly plays some part in the matter.
Players That Still Won After Being Pegged Back
Just because a player was 2-0 up and got pegged back to 2-2, it is not a given that they will then go on and lose the match. Tennis is a match of mental fortitude as well as physical, so it’s just as possible for the momentum of the match to swing back in the favour of the original leader once it has gone 2-2 and it’s all to play for in the final set.
Indeed, there’s an argument that players are more likely to win the fifth set having been pegged back to two sets all, given the manner in which the player on the comeback trail has had to work so hard to get back into the match. They will have expended energy in doing so, whilst the ‘losing’ player will have been able to rest more, both mentally and physically, in preparation for the fifth set.
Here we see that is the Australian Open which has the most matches where a player has lost a 2-0 lead but gone on to win the match in five sets. the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the French Open all have the identical number of matches as those losing after a 2 set lead but the US Open drops to the least number of games in this scenario with just 15.
Comparing the Grand Slams
There are, of course, some five-set results that we have ignored for the purposes of this piece. If a match goes to one-game-all, for, example, then we have looked at it as we’re only interested in the matches in which one of the players takes a two-set lead. Now that we’ve looked at both the times that a player has come back to win 3-2 and those where it has gone 2-2 before the original leader won out, let’s compare those across the Grand Slams:
Players Who Have Taken a Two Set Lead – Last 5 Slams
|Tournament||Won Match||Lost Match|
|Australian Open||25 (3.94%)||25 (3.94%)|
|French Open||22 (3.46%)||22 (3.46%)|
|Wimbledon||20 (3.15%)||20 (3.15%)|
|US Open||15 (2.36%)||29 (4.57%)|
What we know, then, is that most of the tournaments have a pretty even split when it comes to how a match will go when it is 2-2 after one player took a two-set lead. In the case of the first three Grand Slams, it is exactly the same outcome over the five tournament period that we’ve looked at. The outlier is the US Open, which is much more heavily weighted towards the player on the comeback from 2-0 down winning the match.
Looking At Those That Lost From 2-0 Up
Below are the full list of those matches where a player has been two sets to nil up but gone on to lose their match in the last four Grand Slams played at each up to and including 2021.
The Australian Open
The first tournament in the calendar year is the Australian Open, which is typically played in mid-to-late January. Taking place on a hard court at Melbourne Park, it has been held since 1905. Here’s a look at the last five years and the occasions on which a male player has lost from two-sets to love up. In the table we look at the year it happened, what stage of the competition it was, the players involved and the final score:
Australian Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||Quarter-Finals||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Rafael Nadal|
|2021||4th Round||Aslan Karatsev||Félix Auger-Aliassime|
|2021||3rd Round||Dominic Thiem||Nick Kyrgios|
|2021||2nd Round||Feliciano López||Lorenzo Sonego|
|2020||2nd Round||Taylor Fritz||Kevin Anderson|
|2020||1st Round||Fabio Fognini||Reilly Opelka|
|2020||1st Round||Hubert Hurkacz||Dennis Novak|
|2020||1st Round||Daniel Evans||Michael McDonald|
|2019||4th Round||Kei Nishikori||Pablo Carreño Busta|
|2019||3rd Round||Marin Čilić||Fernando Verdasco|
|2019||1st Round||Pablo Carreño Busta||Luca Vanni|
|2019||1st Round||Kei Nishikori||Kamil Majchrzak (ret)|
|2019||1st Round||Chung Hyeon||Bradley Klahn|
|2019||1st Round||Filip Krajinović||Marco Cecchinato|
|2019||1st Round||Denis Kudla||Marc Polmans|
|2018||2nd Round||Dominic Thiem||Denis Kudla|
|2018||1st Round||Damir Džumhur||Paolo Lorenzi|
|2018||1st Round||Malek Jaziri||Salvatore Caruso|
|2018||1st Round||Viktor Troicki||Alex Bolt|
|2017||2nd Round||Mikhail Zverev||John Isner|
|2017||2nd Round||Andreas Seppi||Nick Kyrgios|
|2017||1st Round||Marin Čilić||Jerzy Janowicz|
|2017||1st Round||Rogério Dutra Silva||Jared Donaldson|
|2017||1st Round||Jordan Thompson||João Sousa|
|2017||1st Round||Ivo Karlović||Horacio Zeballos|
Each year of the Australian Open featured 127 matches, meaning that there have been 635 matches over the past five years. Of those, 25 have resulted in one player taking a 2-0 lead before losing the match 3-2. That is 3.94% of all matches over the five year period we’re looking at. 2019 was the year with the most 2-0 comebacks, given that it occurred seven times.
The French Open
The French Open, which is hosted by Paris’ Stade Roland-Garros each year and gets underway in late May, is generally considered to be the most physically demanding of the Grand Slams. That is partly due to the fact that it is held on clay, but certainly shows what it takes out of a player that has to come from 2-0 down in order to win their match. Here’s a look at how often that’s happened over the past five years:
French Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||Final||Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|2021||4th Round||Novak Djokovic||Lorenzo Musetti (ret)|
|2021||2nd Round||Laslo Đere||Miomir Kecmanović|
|2021||2nd Round||Cristian Garín||Michael McDonald|
|2021||1st Round||Alexander Zverev||Oscar Otte|
|2021||1st Round||Botic van de Zandschulp||Hubert Hurkacz|
|2021||1st Round||Pablo Andújar v||Dominic Thiem|
|2021||1st Round||Steve Johnson Jr||Frances Tiafoe|
|2020||1st Round||Andrey Rublev||Sam Querry|
|2020||1st Round||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Jaume Munar|
|2020||1st Round||Jurij Rodionov||Jérémy Chardy|
|2019||1st Round||Martin Kližan||Mikhail Kukushkin|
|2019||1st Round||Nicolas Mahut||Marco Cecchinato|
|2019||1st Round||Pierre-Hugues Herbert||Daniil Medvedev|
|2018||4th Round||Diego Schwartzman||Kevin Anderson|
|2018||2nd Round||Jürgen Zopp||Ruben Bemelmans|
|2018||1st Round||David Goffin||Robin Haase|
|2018||1st Round||Marco Cecchinato||Marius Copil|
|2018||1st Round||Jaume Munar||David Ferrer|
|2018||1st Round||Radu Albot||Grégoire Barrère|
|2017||1st Round||Victor Estrella Burgos||Teymuraz Gabashvili|
|2017||1st Round||Marco Trungelliti v||Quentin Halys|
The French Open follows the same format as the Australian Open, in the sense that there were 127 matches a year. This means that there were 635 matches played in total over the course of the past five years, of which 21 saw one player take a two-set lead before losing. That means that a roughly similar 3.46% of matches resulted in someone losing after being 2-0 up. 2021 saw it happen the most times, with eight matches ending in the person that had a 2-0 lead losing.
the All-England Lawn Tennis Club’s most prestigious competition is also the only one of the Grand Slams that is played on grass. Arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world, The Championships began in 1877 and tend to take place in early July. It’s worth bearing in mind when looking at the following information that the 2020 Wimbledon was cancelled due to the world situation at the time, so we’ve gone back to 2016 to include the last five events.
Wimbledon – 2016 to 2021
|2021||3nd Round||Daniil Medvedev||Marin Čilić|
|2021||1st Round||Denis Kudla||Alejandro Davidovich Fokina|
|2019||4th Round||Guido Pella||Milos Raonic|
|2019||2nd Round||Fernando Verdasco||Kyle Edmund|
|2019||1st Round||Corentin Moutet||Grigor Dimitrov|
|2019||1st Round||Ugo Humbert||Gaël Monfils (ret)|
|2019||1st Round||Nikoloz Basilashvili||James Ward|
|2018||Quarter-Finals||Kevin Anderson||Roger Federer|
|2018||3rd Round||Karen Khachanov||Frances Tiafoe|
|2018||2nd Round||Jan-Lennard Struff||Ivo Karlović|
|2018||2nd Round||Guido Pella||Marin Čilić|
|2018||1st Round||Jan-Lennard Struff||Leonardo Mayer|
|2018||1st Round||Matteo Berrettini||Jack Sock|
|2016||Quarter-Finals||Roger Federer||Marin Čilić|
|2016||4th Round||Milos Raonic||David Goffin|
|2016||3rd Round||Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||John Isner|
|2016||2nd Round||Feliciano López||Fabio Fognini|
|2016||1st Round||Sam Querrey||Lukáš Rosol|
|2016||1st Round||Denis Istomin||Kevin Anderson|
|2016||1st Round||Gilles Müller||Santiago Giraldo|
The interesting thing about Wimbledon is that it is the only Grand Slam that had a year with no 2-0 down comebacks, which took place in 2017. It balanced out the year before, when it happened seven times. It still had 127 matches each year, meaning 635 over the course of a five year period. Of those, 20 went to five sets after one player took a 2-0 lead, only to lose the following three sets in succession. That equates to 3.14% of all matches.
The US Open
The US Open takes place every August, meaning that 2021’s tournament hasn’t happened at the time of writing. As a result, we’ll look at the five years from 2017 through to 2021. Taking place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens district of New York, it was founded in 1881 and has been played on a hard court since 1978, making it a physically demanding competition.
US Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||3rd Round||Dan Evans||Alexei Popyrin|
|2021||2nd Round||Aslan Karatsev||Jordan Thompson|
|2021||1st Round||Vasek Pospisil||Fabio Fognini|
|2021||1st Round||Maxime Cressy||Pablo Carreño Busta|
|2021||1st Round||Pedro Martinez||James Duckworth|
|2021||1st Round||Arthur Rinderknech||Miomir Kecmanović|
|2021||1st Round||Adrian Mannarino||Pierre-Hugues Herbert|
|2021||1st Round||Botic van de Zandschulp||Carlos Taberner|
|2021||1st Round||Philipp Kohlschreiber||Marin Čilić (ret)|
|2021||1st Round||Pablo Andújar||Mikhail Kukushkin|
|2020||Final||Dominic Thiem||Alexander Zverev|
|2020||Semi-Finals||Alexander Zverev||Pablo Carreño Busta|
|2020||1st Round||Cristian Garín||Ulises Blanch|
|2020||1st Round||Cameron Norrie||Diego Schwartzman|
|2020||1st Round||Federico Coria||Jason Jung (ret)|
|2020||1st Round||Casper Ruud||Michael McDonald|
|2020||1st Round||Karen Khachanov||Jannik Sinner|
|2020||1st Round||Andy Murray||Yoshihito Nishioka|
|2020||1st Round||Marin Čilić||Denis Kudla|
|2019||2nd Round||Alexander Bublik||Thomas Fabbiano|
|2019||2nd Round||Aljaž Bedene||Benoît Paire|
|2019||2nd Round||Chung Hyeon||Fernando Verdasco|
|2019||1st Round||Paolo Lorenzi||Zachary Svajda|
|2019||1st Round||Tennys Sandgren II||Jo-Wilfried Tsonga|
|2018||3rd Round||Marin Čilić||Alex de Minaur|
|2018||1st Round||Taylor Fritz||Mikhail Zverev|
|2018||1st Round||Robin Haase||Michael McDonald|
|2017||4th Round||Juan Martin del Potro||Dominic Thiem|
|2017||1st Round||Janko Tipsarević||Thanasi Kokkinakis|
As with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the US Open involved 127 matches each year, making it 635 matches that were played over a five year period. Of those, 4.57% involved a player going 2-0 up before losing 3-2, which is 28 matches. That is by far the most of any of the Grand Slams, with 2021 featuring ten matches where this happened.
Players Winning in 5 Sets After Taking a 2-0 Lead
Once again, here’s a look at the four Grand Slams and the matches in which a player went 2-0 up, was pegged back to 2-2 and then won the fifth set.
The Australian Open
We now know that the Australian Open involved the second-most comebacks of all the Grand Slams, but where does it fit in terms of players getting a second wind and winning the fifth set to ensure that they progress to the next round? Here’s a look at all of the times that it’s happened over our five year period, with details about the year, the stage of the competition it happened at, which players were involved and the final score:
Australian Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||3rd Round||Novak Djokovic||Taylor Fritz|
|2021||3rd Round||Filip Krajinović||Daniil Medvedev|
|2021||2nd Round||Márton Fucsovics||Stan Wawrinka|
|2020||3rd Round||Nick Kyrgios||Karen Khachanov|
|2020||2nd Round||David Goffin||Pierre-Hugues Herbert|
|2020||2nd Round||Tennys Sandgren II||Matteo Berrettini|
|2020||2nd Round||Fabio Fognini||Jordan Thompson|
|2020||2nd Round||Tommy Paul||Grigor Dimitrov|
|2020||1st Round||Egor Gerasimov||Casper Ruud|
|2020||1st Round||Filip Krajinović||Quentin Halys|
|2020||1st Round||Marc Polmans||Mikhail Kukushkin|
|2019||3rd Round||Lucas Pouille||Alexei Popyrin|
|2019||2nd Round||Kei Nishikori||Ivo Karlović|
|2019||2nd Round||Alexander Zverev||Jérémy Chardy|
|2019||2nd Round||Roberto Bautista Agut||John Millman|
|2019||2nd Round||Diego Schwartzman||Denis Kudla|
|2019||2nd Round||Alex de Minaur||Henri Laaksonen|
|2019||1st Round||Dominic Thiem||Benoît Paire|
|2019||1st Round||Roberto Bautista Agut||Andy Murray|
|2018||3rd Round||Andreas Seppi||Ivo Karlović|
|2018||2nd Round||Gilles Müller||Malek Jaziri|
|2018||1st Round||João Souza||Dustin Brown|
|2018||1st Round||Nicolás Kicker||Jordan Thompson|
|2017||Semi-Finals||Roger Federer||Stan Wawrinka|
|2017||1st Round||Viktor Troicki||Damir Džumhur|
Over the same five-year period as the comebacks from 2-0 down, there were 25 occasions on which a player had a two-set lead, was pegged back to 2-2 but then recovered to win the final set. That is just two fewer occasions on which that happened than the player initiating the comeback went on to win, making it 3.93%.
The French Open
Does the physically demanding nature of the French Open mean that players are less likely to be able to win three sets in a row once they’ve commenced their comeback, or is it a matter or thinking that once the player has started losing sets they can’t stop themselves? Here’s a look at the number of times a player has been pegged back to 2-2 but rallied to win the final set in the French Open:
French Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||Semi-Finals||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Alexander Zverev|
|2021||2nd Round||Alejandro Davidovich Fokina||Botic van de Zandschulp|
|2021||1st Round||Jan-Lennard Struff||Andrey Rublev|
|2021||1st Round||Tommy Paul||Christopher O’Connell|
|2020||Semi-Finals||Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|2020||4th Round||Dominic Thiem||Hugo Gaston|
|2020||2nd Round||Kevin Anderson||Dušan Lajović|
|2020||1st Round||Taylor Fritz||Tomáš Macháč|
|2020||1st Round||Juan Ignacio Londero||Federico Delbonis|
|2019||3rd Round||Alexander Zverev||Dušan Lajović|
|2019||2nd Round||Filip Krajinović||Roberto Carballés Baena|
|2019||2nd Round||Benoît Paire||Pierre-Hugues Herbert|
|2019||1st Round||Alexander Zverev||John Millman|
|2019||1st Round||Grigor Dimitrov||Janko Tipsarević|
|2018||4th Round||Marin Čilić||Fabio Fognini|
|2018||2nd Round||Damir Džumhur||Radu Albot|
|2018||1st Round||Jérémy Chardy||Tomáš Berdych|
|2018||1st Round||Casper Ruud||Jordan Thompson|
|2018||3rd Round||Kei Nishikori||Chung Hyeon|
|2017||1st Round||Martin Kližan||Laurent Lokoli|
|2017||1st Round||Fabio Fognini||Frances Tiafoe|
|2017||1st Round||Steve Johnson Jr||Yūichi Sugita|
Out of the 635 matches played across the five year period we’re looking at, 22 of them resulted in a player going 2-0 up, being dragged back to 2-2 but then winning the final set. That’s 3.46% of all of the matches, which exactly the same as the matches, which ended in a total comeback. To put it another way, there isn’t a clear indication of which way a 2-2 match is going to go in the French Open.
Wimbledon is known for the passionate crowd that gets behind its favourite player, as well and that typically English trait of supporting the underdog. Does that make a difference in terms of a player’s ability to come back and win a match when they’ve lost a 2-0 lead and found themselves on the back foot? How does it compare to those that a 2-0 down but roar back to win the match? Once again, 2020 is missing from the years:
Wimbledon – 2016 to 2021
|2021||4th Round||Félix Auger-Aliassime||Alexander Zverev|
|2021||2nd Round||Roberto Bautista Agut||Miomir Kecmanović|
|2021||2nd Round||Taylor Fritz||Steve Johnson Jr|
|2021||1st Round||Dušan Lajović||Gilles Simon|
|2021||1st Round||Jordan Thompson||Casper Ruud|
|2019||2nd Round||Tennys Sandgren II||Gilles Simon|
|2018||3rd Round||Adrian Mannarino||Daniil Medvedev|
|2018||2nd Round||Dennis Novak||Lucas Pouille|
|2018||2nd Round||John Isner||Ruben Bemelmans|
|2018||2nd Round||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Jared Donaldson|
|2018||2nd Round||Karen Khachanov||Marcos Baghdatis|
|2018||1st Round||Sergiy Stakhovsky||João Sousa|
|2018||1st Round||Ruben Bemelmans||Steve Johnson Jr|
|2017||4th Round||Gilles Müller||Rafael Nadal|
|2017||2nd Round||Ruben Bemelmans||Daniil Medvedev|
|2017||2nd Round||Sebastian Ofner||Jack Sock|
|2017||2nd Round||Mikhail Zverev||Mikhail Kukushkin|
|2016||Quarter-Finals||Andy Murray||Jo-Wilfried Tsonga|
|2016||1st Round||Damir Džumhur||Denis Kudla|
|2016||1st Round||Nicolás Almagro||Rogério Dutra Silva|
The most interesting win from someone pegged back to 2-2 at Wimbledon over the past five years’ of tournaments was Andy Murray. He went 2-0 up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, dropped two sets but still won his quarter-final, on the way to winning it outright. Wimbledon enjoyed 20 such matches, which is 3.15% of all matches and the same number of matches that resulted in a comeback from 2-0 down to win.
The US Open
The final Grand Slam tournament in the calendar year is the US Open Grand Slam. Are players tired from the demanding nature of the season by the time that it comes around, meaning that once they’ve seen their two-set lead disappear they can’t muster enough energy to win the final set? Or is the fact that it is their last chance of silverware enough to get them to respond to adversity?
US Open – 2017 to 2021
|2021||4th Round||Botic van de Zandschulp||Diego Schwartzman|
|2021||3rd Round||Jannik Sinner||Gael Monfils|
|2021||3rd Round||Félix Auger-Aliassime||Roberto Bautista Agut|
|2021||2nd Round||Kei Nishikori||Michael McDonald|
|2020||2nd Round||Mikhail Kukushkin||Cristian Garín|
|2020||1st Round||Miomir Kecmanović||Gianluca Mager|
|2019||Final||Rafael Nadal||Daniil Medvedev|
|2019||1st Round||Grégoire Barrère v||Cameron Norrie|
|2019||1st Round||Henri Laaksonen||Marco Cecchinato|
|2019||1st Round||Alexander Zverev||Radu Albot|
|2017||2nd Round||Radu Albot||Lu Yen-hsun|
|2017||2nd Round||Mikhail Zverev||Benoît Paire|
|2017||2nd Round||Lucas Pouille||Jared Donaldson|
|2017||1st Round||Santiago Giraldo||Vincent Millot|
|2017||1st Round||Jordan Thompson||Jack Sock|
In the US Open, only 15 matches saw one player go 2-0 up, drop two sets and then win in the fifth. It didn’t happen at all in 2018, which is the only year across the Grand Slams over our five tournament period in which there was no such match. That’s 2.36%, which is by far the lowest of all of the percentages across the board, suggesting that perhaps players are too tired at the end of the season to get back into the rhythm of winning.