Are you watching the success of Canadian tennis stars Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard with building excitement, yet don't know exactly what it is you're watching? Are the cheers in your office punctuated by calls of "That's good, right?" and "Did she win yet?"
This guide is for you.
Love? Deuce? What are all the lines on the court? Here are some quick and easy rules for Canadians with a new-found interest in tennis now that Raonic and Bouchard have arrived in a big way on the world tennis scene.
The rules of tennis have largely remained unchanged since 1924, established by the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF), now known as the International Tennis Federation.
The object of tennis is to win points. If you win enough points you win a game. Win enough games and you win a set. Win enough sets, and you win the match. (That means you're done.) Let's take each in turn.
The basic goal is to hit the ball back and forth until somebody fails. You can let the ball bounce once or strike it mid-air.
If you do any of the following things, you lose the point:
- Fail to return the ball.
- Let the ball bounce twice.
- Return the ball but have it land outside the lines painted on the court (Ignore the widest lines, though; They're for doubles.)
There are other less common ways, too, but let's stick with these three for simplicity's sake.
A game is won by a minimum of four points, but you have to win by two. However the name of each point is not a simple matter of 1,2,3,4. We won't deal with the why (which is disputed, anyway), just the hard facts of tennis scoring.
- Zero points = Love
- One point = 15
- Two points = 30
- Three points = 40
Then it gets a little more complicated. Yes, really.
If you're tied with three points each, it's not 40-40. It's 'deuce.' Now one player has to get two points in a row. If they get one point, it's their 'advantage.' If they get the next point, they win the game. If the player who was down by a point wins, then you're back to deuce. And so on until somebody wins two points in a row. It's quite simple when you play, honestly.
A player who is the first to win six games wins the set, but you have to win by two. So anything from 6-0 to 7-5 is possible.
If it's 6-6, this forces a tiebreaker. In tie-breaks, the player first to win seven points with two points more than his opponent wins the tie-break — and the set, 7-6.
By the way, players alternate games where they hit the ball first, or 'serve.' If you're serving, you have to hit from behind the base line (the end of the court), and hit the ball inside the smaller, marked area on the opposite half of the court. If you miss the service area twice, you automatically lose the point. That's called a 'double fault.'
The receiver must let the ball bounce on the serve. Pro players hit serves at tremendous speed, so the receiver is usually at a disadvantage. To win a game when you're receiving is called 'breaking' your opponent's serve and is often a key turning point in pro matches.
Sets and the match:
Men play best-of-five-set matches at all four Grand Slam tournaments, Davis Cup, and the final of the Olympic Games and best-of-three-set matches at other professional tournaments. Women play best-of-three-set matches at all tournaments.
The first player to win two sets in a best-of-three, or three sets in a best-of-five, wins the match.
One more wrinkle...
In some tournaments including Wimbledon, there's one more wrinkle in the rules: In the final set, there is no tie-breaker so you can't win 7-6. You must win by two games (8-6 or 10-8, for example). One Wimbledon 5th set in 2010 finished 70-68, with the entire match lasting for slightly more than 11 hours. That's bad news for the players, but the good news is 11 hours should be more than long enough to understand the rules.