Handicap Tennis

Marc VanDam
Marc VanDam
You have a friend who you want to play singles with but he is a lot better and/or younger than you; so he can regularly beat you 1 and 1. It never is really a competitive match for you — or for him; but it can be.

Handicap Tennis

When my good friend Marc VanDam (who is 24 years younger than me) lived in Naples, we used to play singles most every Tuesday. And even though he was as good (if not better than me) and could run TWICE as fast as I could and get to every ball on the court… we would have good, close, competitive and FUN matches using the handicap scoring system.

As we used it…

• You objectively assess what an average set score would be (e.g. 6-2)

• The difference in games is the number of handicap points the underdog gets per set

• He can take one of his four points anytime he wants (for example, his younger opponent serving at 30-40)

• He cannot take two at the same time; but can take up to two in the same game

You would be amazed how having just those four little points can even up a match and put a lot of pressure on the better player… I would remind my young friend, when he was serving at 30-30, “This will be a game point, if I win it (because I will then take a handicap point).”

So when you announce the game score at the start of each new game, you include the number of points remaining (“two serving three… with three points”).

I now do this with my NH/FL friend Bob Wilkie, who is not that much younger than me, but is that much better than me.

Have you ever tried this or a variation of it? It works for me.

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4 thoughts on “Handicap Tennis

  1. George, I have done this several times. I start first by giving my weaker opponent the doubles lines and I only get one serve. If that is not enough, we start out love-15, etc. You modulate it so that the score is close. Makes it a lot more interesting.

    JB, i think the one serve might be one of the bigger handicaps! thanks, george

  2. what about having the stronger player start the set a game or two ( or three) in the hole? we do that in our indoor league if a one has to play someone in a lower bracket-we still toss for serve.

    Doc, having played as the underdog, I bet the better player will still win most all of the remaining games. Thanks, george

  3. I often used a handicap system I read about in Tennis magazine many years ago. Everything is played the “normal” way, except for the score at the beginning of each game. Each game starts with the person who is ahead in the set down by the number of games he leads. So, first game (set score 0-0) the game score starts at love-love. Second game starts at love-15 (or 15-love depending on who serves). If the set score is then 1-1, the third game starts at love-love but if the set score is 2-0 or 0-2, the third game starts at love-30 or 30-love. And it continues throughout the set. Always serve from the correct side. What I especially like about this format is that it can put a lot of pressure on the better player if he has to start a game at love-30 or if he’s ahead by three games he has to start at love-40. (And if he’s ahead by 4 games the other person automatically get’s a game). I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really pretty easy to get used to. The sets do tend to finish a little quicker because you’re playing fewer points.

    Terry, verrrry interesting! Thanks, George

  4. Thanks for sharing these ideas. We are just beginning to form local loose leagues in different areas of the state and I envision these formats working well with our mixed level demographic. I am going to share these options with my Masters Tennis providers and test the favorite 1-2 overall choice formats statewide for the four environments of Masters Tennis: country clubs, parks and rec, indoor service (ymca’s, etc), senior community centers.

    Christine – great, pls let us know what works best. george

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