What’s the deal?
Players use rackets to hit a ball back and forth over a net. Miss or fail to return the ball in bounds, and your opponent gets a point.
A tennis match consists of sets — women must win 2 out of 3 sets, and men must win 3 out of 5. To win a set, you have to win at least 6 games, but you must win by two games, so if it’s 5-5, winning the set may mean winning 7 games. If the score is 6-6, then there’s a tiebreaker.
Got that? Now, let’s talk about game scoring. To win a game, you only have to get 4 points–but, there’s the old “you must win by 2” factor here as well. Add to that the fact that points in tennis aren’t 0-1-2-3, they’re love-15-30-40. Now, if a game is tied at 40, it’s called “deuce.” Since you have to win by two, the next point is “advantage.” If whoever has advantage loses the next point, it goes back to deuce until the person who has advantage wins the final point. This means that games–and matches–can go on for some time.
Men and women each compete in singles and doubles. There’s also a mixed doubles event.
Why should I watch?
Why should you watch, when tennis has a massive Grand Slam series? Well, it’s the Olympics, which still has a lot of caché, and it’s a fun opportunity to see not just the greatest athletes play, but also see others from countries who aren’t necessarily atop the world rankings.
Potential drinking game:
Whenever someone double-faults on a serve (completely fails to get it over the net and in play), drink.
The perfect snack:
The International Tennis Federation has information about the game and tournaments on a global scale. Look to your national governing body for how to get started in the sport. Sites like the US Tennis Association have information for all ages and skill levels.
It’s hard to have a tournament without umpires and officials who can help determine whether balls land in our out of bounds. Your national governing body should also have information about officiating tennis, if you want to get in on that aspect of the sport.