I remember when I was younger my family used to take trips to the local tennis courts and play. At the time I really enjoyed watching and playing tennis and some of my friend’s even began playing at each other’s house. Eventually the phase passed and I stopped playing and watching tennis. Then a couple of years ago I was flipping through the television channels and stopped on a match between Andre Agassi and James Blake. I remembered Agassi from when I was younger and decided there was nothing else on so why not watch this. What I watched was quite possibly the best sporting match I ever saw in any sport.
I fell in love with the game all over again. Tennis is a great sport because you have to have all the abilities that makes one an athlete. You need speed to track down a ball on the other side of the court. You need strength to have an effective serve. You need accuracy to place your shot just out of the reach of the opponent. You need stamina to last a three hour match in 120 degree weather. So how does that make it any different from football or basketball or hockey? Well it’s an individual sport. There’s no taking a break in tennis. If you need a breather you can’t call in a replacement. If you’re having a bad day you can’t count on someone else to bail you out. It’s all on you and it is fun seeing how different people react to that kind of pressure. I recommend that you start watching tennis. You might be thinking to yourself, “Well I don’t really know that much about tennis and the scoring and all the terms.” Well that’s what I’m here for, here is a little crash course on what you need to know to understand a tennis match.
The most important thing to know about tennis is how to win. How does the scoring work and how many games do you have to win? Some casual fans might be familiar with the scoring, 0, 15, 30, 40, etc. But I will go into more detail how exactly a player wins.
First of all to win the whole thing and move onto the next round you have to win what is called the match. The match is made up of a certain number of sets. In a Grand Slam, which is what you’ll usually see on television, the men play best of five sets and the women play best of three sets. To win a set you have to win six games.
The scoring is a little different in tennis since each point doesn’t equal the same amount of numeric value. Both players start at 0, when you score once you go up to 15, then 30, then 40. There is a reason they use those numbers but I won’t go into that. Once you get to 40 you need one more point to win. That is unless it’s tied. If both players have 40 points then that is called deuce which basically means it is tied. Once you get to deuce you no longer only need to score one point more, you have to score two points. So for example it is deuce and Player A scores two points in a row then Player A wins. If Player A scores once and Player B scores after that the score is back to deuce again and they keep going until one player wins by two points.
You must win six games to win a set. That is why a tennis score is often six to something, because the final score given is how many games in each set the two players won. For example if Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams 6 – 1, 4 – 6, 6 – 3 then that means Serena Williams won six games in the first and third sets and four in the middle set while Venus won one game in the first set, six games in the second set, and three games in the third set. The exception comes when it is tied 5 – 5. If it’s tied 5 – 5 then the player who wins the next game won’t win because you have to also win by two games. So after it’s 6 – 5 they will still play another game, if the leader wins that game they will win the set and the score will be 7 – 5. If the player that goes ahead 6 – 5 loses the next game and it’s tied 6 – 6 then two things cans happen.
– In some cases there is then a tiebreaker. In a tiebreaker game scoring is kept by normal numbering. The first player to seven wins but again you have to win by two points. So if the score is 7 – 4 then the player with the 7 will win. The official scoring will be 7 – 6 (7 – 4). That is because the 7 – 6 was the amount of games won and the 7 – 4 was the score of the tiebreaker. Now if it’s 7 – 6 then you have to keep playing until a player wins by two. A few days ago at the Australian Open one of Andy Roddick’s matches went all the way to 20 – 18 in the tiebreaker. When you win a tiebreaker that goes past 7 points the official score will have just the loser’s number in parenthesis. So in the case of the Andy Roddick match the official score would’ve been 7 – 6 (18). Of course we then know the winner’s score is 20 because it would always be two points higher than the loser’s score.
– In some cases there will not be a tiebreaker. The two players will just continue playing until one player has won two more games than the other player. So in this case the final scoring of the game would look something like 9 – 7 if it went to that many games.
Like I said before, to win the entire match you either have to win three out of five sets or two out of three sets depending on the situation.
That’s how scoring works and that is how you win a tennis match. But here are some other terms to know also:
Ace – an ace is when the serving player hits a ball that is not touched by the receiving player.
Bagel – a bagel is when one player wins a set 6 – 0.
Bread stick – a bread stick is when a player wins a set 6 – 1.
Break – a break is when the receiving player wins a game from the serving player. So if a player is up two break points that means the player A has won two games that player B served while Player A also won the games he served himself.
Break back – a break back is when one player gets a break and then the other player immediately gets a break in the next game.
Break point, game point, match point, set point – Anything that ends with point means you need one more point to achieve that. So break point means you need one more point to get a break, game point means you need one more point to win a game, match point means you need one more point to win a match, and set point means you need one more point to win a set.
Dead net – a dead net is when a player hits the ball and the ball hits the net but still goes over the net.
Double Fault – a double fault is when a player gets two consecutive faults. If a player hits a double fault the opposing player will be awarded a point.
Fault – a fault is a serve that is not hit in the correct area of play like it was hit out of bounds or hit into the net.
Forced Error – a forced error is when a receiving player fails to return a ball because the other player made a good shot.
Golden Slam – a Golden slam is when a player wins all four Grand Slams and a gold medal in one year. There is also a Career Golden Slam in which a player has won all four grand slams and a gold medal sometime in their career.
Grand Slam – The Grand Slam events are the four major events of the year. They are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Winning the Grand Slam means winning all four in a calendar year.
Let – a let is when the serving player’s serve touches the net but lands in the service court. The server gets to redo the serve.
Love – love is another way of saying the score zero. So thirty-love means the score is thirty-zero.
Unforced error – an unforced error is when the opposing player didn’t hit a particular great shot the receiving player just fails to return the ball in play due to his own lack of execution.