Unique Tennis Scoring

Fred Drilling (update below)

Tennis scoring is different from all (?) other sports in that you can be crushed in the first set; but the score differential doesn’t make a difference (except in your mind) as you move into the second set.

Other Sports

In football, one team takes the opening kickoff and runs it back for a touchdown; the other team has to carry that deficit for the whole game.  In golf, a player double bogies an early hole and has to stare at that score on their card for 18 holes.

But in tennis, you can lose a set 6-0 and, depending on your mind, not have it carry forward into the second set.  On the score sheet, it is just the same as if you played great and lost a close first set tiebreaker.

Cleansing the Mind

Even within a tennis game, you can blow an easy overhead and double fault a serve; but if you can win the other points, you still win that game and your errors have zero consequence (again, except in your own mind).

Serving at 2-5, remind yourself, “It is only one break of serve.  All I have to do is hold serve now and then focus on breaking my opponent(s); and we will be right back on serve!”

In my opinion, what players have to do is accept the fact that we are all human and will make mistakes, miss easy sitters, and double fault.  It is all part of the game and should not be carried forward (except to try to correct any technical flaws).

How do YOU deal with missing shots or an early deficit?

Fred Drilling Triple Bypass

I included Fred’s picture with the score sheet to recognize that our favorite former world champ has just gone through triple bypass heart surgery.  We will feature his symptoms and situation in a future posting; but meanwhile the senior tennis community is behind his speedy recovery and return to the court (where he can beat up on all of us again)!

P.S. The picture is from the time he crushed me in the Naples/Ft. Myers Challenge!


Saturday Morning

Hi George

I am feeling quite well today.  Yesterday was terrible… lots of pain and nausea almost all day long and half of the night and finally early this morning about 3 o’clock I woke up and I was feeling much better.

I got to eat some breakfast; I had some solid food and feeling pretty good.  Walked this morning; had one tube out the other day and that other big tube is coming out today. I think I am doing well.

They tell me I can’t lift over 10 lbs for a month. Going to have to weigh my racket:). 

I appreciate everyone’s calling, texts and messages. Tell all the guys I said hi and thanks for their prayers and concerns. 

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at GeorgeWachtel@gmail.com

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17 thoughts on “Unique Tennis Scoring

  1. George,
    Please give Fred my best wishes. I had a quadruple bypass in 2012 at Concord Hospital. Worst part was the intubation. Fred’s fitness will cut short the normal 3 to 6 month rehab and get him back to regular activities quickly. Still a lot of tennis to be played.

  2. Get well SOON Fred! I played tennis for years in the 90’s in Beach Haven, New Jersey shore with a nationally ranked player by the name of Herb Shapiro. Whenever we were getting crushed in the first set Herb would say “First set means NOTHING!” Never forgot that, and I still say it to myself and my partner when our first set stinks!

    Jim, “Great athletes have short memories.” thanks, george

  3. fred is one of the great players of his era, he’ll be back doing what he does regularly, winning tennis matches. everyone is hoping for a speedy recovery.
    on the scoring topic. dennis alter and i have been starting our sets at 3 all. it increases your concentration for sure, because every game is so important. it makes for a very competitive workout.

    Joe, and they are over faster! Also, one of Newk’s training tips: play a regular set and you get only ONE serve! george

  4. Get well soon Fred. You will be back on the court very soon. I had quadruple bypass surgery on December 29, 2014. Started rehab when the heart surgeon released me and was back on the tennis court in three months. There are five guys I play regularly with that have had bypass surgery. We call ourselves members of the zipper club. On the scoring topic, I think having a very short memory in tennis is good. Forget was just happened and play forward. Biggest problem our group has is forgetting the game score.

  5. I want to extend my get well wishes to Fred for a quick recovery and his return back to the courts. In regards to your topic George, I believe it is easier to come from behind and win than to hold onto a lead and close out the set. Don’t panic when you are down one service break. Work hard, hold serve, and fight off your opponent’s serve until you break back. Play one point at a time. Concentrate on winning every game, or every point if in a tiebreaker, regardless of the score when you are behind. Don’t rush. If you hit a bad shot, you may be speeding up your actions hoping that every shot will go in. On a break point, make something happen and don’t wait for your opponent to make an error. Above all, whether you are being beaten decisively or losing a close match, don’t become discouraged or let your partner get down on himself or herself. Stay positive and communicate good thoughts. Together, prepare with the right mental attitude, and display good body language. Momentum can change suddenly on the outcome of one or two critical points. Be prepared for the shift in the match to come your way. Hopefully for the win!

    Glenn, you bring up a real good point on trying to help your partner maintain a positive attitude. Sometimes, that can be very challenging. thanks, george

  6. *Love* Billy Scruggs’s comment! Fred will also do great. Saw Fred’s post on FB about the burning lungs and continuing to play and then the decision to hit the ER. Glad to hear that he’s had the surgery by now. Also saw a “comment” on FB from Charlie Owens about it.

    Watched him play for a couple of years at the National 40’s Clay Courts at our club in Savannah – one of my all time favorites of all the greats that I got to see play there. Probably why I’ve worked so hard to learn the drop volley. 🙂

  7. Best wishes to Fred on a speedy and successful recovery.

    On the topic of the day, you are absolutely correct, George, that tennis’s unique scoring system makes it different from most sports, but a lot of players don’t appreciate this enough, although they should.

    I believe there are those players who are stronger when they have a lead and those who are the opposite. Djokovic is a good example of a strong frontrunner type player. I think Nadal tends to be more of a come from behind player. His sheer grit and determination can sometimes not be there at the outset of a match, but he rarely cannot find it by the time the match has been concluded. However, maybe the best come from behind players that I remember seeing was Lleyton Hewit.

    I have also always been more of a come from behind type player myself — although I hasten to add I am a total hacker when compared to the greats of the game. I think the system of having matches decided by the best of 3 or 5 sets inherently favors the come from behind players like myself. It is most liberating, I think, when you are already down a set and you realize that you are going to lose if you don’t change things and this literally forces you to play better in the next set (or else).

    I think what happens is that those of us who don’t favor a lead just naturally get a little looser and more mentally sharp. We also maybe start to go for a bit more when we are coming from behind, as the score also forces us to concentrate better too. And that is the best way to play tennis, at least for me, because when I get that “I don’t give a damn but I am supremely focused” looseness, it usually frees up my strokes, allows me to hit with a bit more pace and spin, relaxes me overall so I stop feeling so tight and nervous, and seems to always elevate my game a bit.

    But even outside the way that set scoring reinforces this effect, there is also a microcosm of the same effect in regular game scoring. This is the fact that, when we reach deuce within a game, each of the players now needs to put together two successive points in order to win that game. So, if you go up advantage in any given game, you cannot rest on your laurels and assume the opponent is going to just give you the next point. You actually have to earn it. And in that respect the situation is similar to the whole mindset that you need to adopt to come back after having dropped an entire set.

    In short, the scoring system in tennis tends to suppress a lot of true blow outs, provided that players on opposite sides of the court are reasonably close in their respective skills. Of course, I am still going to go down love and love in 15 minutes against a top player anywhere and any day. But if my opponent is better than me, but only slightly so, and if I can keep my negative emotions in check and allow my ego to help but not hurt me, I feel like I will always have a chance in any match and the score is really not that meaningful until it is all over.

    Marty, yes, some players get tight with the lead and others get loose being behind, thanks, george

  8. My best wishes to Fred. He has always been such an inspiration to me, both watching him play and playing with him and getting just a few insightful tips which are always key.

  9. Am looking forward to seeing Fred back on the court – would be great to see him in Virginia Beach in October at the 75,80 national clay – best of luck in the recovery!

    The ability to lose the first set and still see your way to win is a special part of tennis that has been diminished by the 10 point tiebreaker in lieu of the third set. The first set feels so much more important to me if the decider is a tiebreaker.
    I am not lobbying against the judicious use of the tiebreaker for the third set – it helps keep tournaments on schedule and lessens the endurance aspect deciding matches, helps limit injuries. It just puts more pressure on the first set when I do better when I feel i can play my way into a match. Need an attitude adjustment and am sure will do better with that as we have more tiebreaker for third set events.

    Winder, and i feel just the opposite about losing the first set in a match with a ten-pointer deciding it … i say to myself, “You dont have to now win two more grueling sets… just win the second set and go into a tie break that anyone can win!” thanks, george

  10. Best wishes, Fred, for a speedy recovery. You are an inspiration to all us senior players!

  11. As I teach tennis to beginning players and play socially with my peers, my favorite example on “tennis scoring” is a match played by our”beloved and departed” (2019) tennis friend and tournament photographer, Ralph Grieco. It was a 70’s singles match, 5-6 years ago in the mega Longboat Key (FL) Super Senior Men’s tournament. I tell the story as a “riddle”, and ask others to figure it out (few do). Ralph won the match in two straight sets; no third set; no match tiebreak; and, ……….. “he won 13 games in a row”. How was that possible? What was the score? (Answer in a separate Reply)

  12. Ralph Grieco match score riddle answer. He lost the first five games of the first set. Then he won 13 games in a row, winning the match, 7-5, 6-0. Way to go Ralph! You have made the world and tennis, richer! Rest in Peace! (Send some healing energy to our tennis friend, Fred Drilling.)

    Wendall, great story! thanks, george

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