Tennis game rules and guidelines are designed to guarantee a winner at the end of a game, set, or match. While many sports competitions end with a “tied game,” tennis never ends this way. Competition continues until a tennis player or team wins the tournament. If you’re not familiar with the game of tennis, you may find yourself both fascinated and disconnected while watching a tournament. If your scoring knowledge is lacking, a few basic game rules will teach you help you better understand tennis. For official tennis rules and regulations, search online for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) or the International Tennis Federation (ITF) websites. But if you just want to understand the scoring on a televised tournament, here is an overview.
- Structure: Game-Set-Match. A tennis player’s objective is to advance to the next round in a tournament. His ultimate goal is to play for the championship in the “final round.” To achieve this, a player must earn a minimum of four points to win a game. Then he must play at least six games to win a set. Finally, he must win at least two (sometimes three) sets to win the match.
- Structure: Side or serve. Before starting a match, players must determine which tennis player or team will serve first, and which side will start the game play. A coin toss or racket spin determines the privilege of choosing side or serve. The winner of the coin toss or racket spin gets his choice. The loser gets his pick of the second option.
- Tennis Scoring: Game. A tennis game starts with a serve, and a player serves the entire game. A player must earn four points to win the game. The server’s score is always announced first. Tennis scoring terminology includes “love” (zero points), 15 points, 30 points, 40 points, and game. A game win requires a two-point advantage.
- Tennis Scoring: Set. To win a set, a player must win a minimum of six games, with a two-game advantage over his opponent. Possible set outcomes include scores of 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, or 6-0. A game with a 6-5 score must continue until the outcome is 7-5 or 8-6. Competitive tennis sets can last an hour or more, because tennis cannot end with a tie.
- Tennis Scoring: Match. A tennis match is structured with an odd number of sets to ensure a winner at the end of the match. Tennis players typically play the best two of three sets to win the match. In men’s professional tennis, Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open) require the best three of five sets to win a match.
Tennis is an exhilarating sport to play. And watching world-class athletes battle for each point, game, set, and match is exciting. A better understanding of tennis game rules, especially scoring, will make things understandable and a lot more enjoyable the next time you watch a tennis match or tournament on the sports channel.