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Know all about the sets in tennis

Roger Federer (left) and Rafael Nadal have made the sport immensely popular along with Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer (left) and Rafael Nadal have made the sport immensely popular along with Novak Djokovic
Modified 07 Feb 2019

Thanks to the exploits of the mighty Big 3, tennis is a highly popular sport now. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who share a staggering total of 52 Slam titles between them, have fascinated countless fans with their skills, artistry, fighting spirit and demeanor.

Tennis has spread to every corner of the world now and is attracting new fans every day. To be able to fully appreciate the sport and its greatest champions, it is imperative that one learns the basic rules of the game. 

This article will help you to brush up your knowledge about sets in tennis -- the basic brickwork in a tennis match.

1. How many games are there in a set of tennis?

A: To understand the fundamentals of tennis scoring, we have to understand first what exactly a game is. A series of points constitutes a game and the first to win four points gets the game, provided the opponent has two points less than him.

In tennis, a game starts at 0 or 'love' and the next three points are described as 15, 30 and 40. If the two players are locked at 40-40, then it is termed as deuce. The next point is called advantage. If the player manages to convert that advantage point, the game is his.

A set is a series of games played by alternating the service between the two contestants in a match. The first to win six games in a set, with a difference of at least two, gets to win the set, eg 6-4.

In the case of one player winning six games and the other five, the next game is crucial. If the leading player can get the next game too, the set is his by a score of 7-5. In the scenario of both remaining tied at 6-6, a tie-break is played where the first to reach seven points with a difference of two, wins the tie-break and is awarded the set by a score of 7-6.

2. How many sets are played in a tennis match?

A: Sets are what constitutes a match. Depending on the tournament, there can be a best-of-five set match or a best-of-three set match.


In a best-of-five format, the first player to win three sets out of a maximum possible five clinches the match. Similarly, in a best-of-three format, the first player to win two sets out of a maximum possible three, pockets the match.

Also read: Tennis Scoring rules explained

3. How many sets are needed to win in tennis?

A: Different tournaments follow different rules. Understanding which tournaments follow which rules are of paramount importance.

Grand Slams ie. the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open follow the best-of-five format for the men. At the Olympic Games, the men's singles final is a best-of-five set match.

The Davis Cup too used to follow this rule, which gave rise to some gruelling encounters. However, from 2019, the Davis Cup has resorted to a new shorter format with the matches being only best-of-three.

From this year, the Slams too are embracing changes to reduce stress on players. The Australian Open opted for a final set tie-break this year with the first to reach 10 points with a difference of two points from his opponent to be declared the winner. Wimbledon has announced that a tie-break will be played if the players happen to be on level terms at 12-12 in the final set.

The US Open already has its system of final set tie-break in place since 1970. The French Open remains the only Major where no tie-break will be allowed in the final set.


All other men's matches on the professional circuit, including the 9 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and the ATP Finals, are best-of-three set matches. 

The women, on the other hand, have to compete in the best-of-three format everywhere, including the four Slams.

It is a far cry from nearly two decades ago when women could play in best-of-five matches in the final of the year-ending championships. From 1984-98, it used to be played in the extended format until the best-of-three format was put in place once more 1999 onwards, paving the way for faster matches.

Published 07 Feb 2019, 13:52 IST
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