NaplesTennis Blog

Tennis, like any other sport, uses lots of jargon. Hard core tennis fans think nothing of the terms and use them regularly. But the casual fan might be a bit confused at times trying to figure out some of the terminology used during the telecast of a tournament. Here are explanations of some of the more commonly used terms. Hopefully they will help you better understand, and enjoy, the next tournament you watch.

Think NCAA brackets. A draw is the set of brackets that shows who plays whom in a tournament. This might be used as in, “She got a tough draw at the French Open,” meaning the player is set to play some difficult matches. Conversely, if a player gets agood draw or favorable draw, it means he is set up to play less formidable players or players he has had success against in the past.

You won’t see this in a professional tournament, but they are used often in high school, college, and USTA events. The back draw is another bracket, and it’s where players are placed when they suffer their first loss in a tournament. It’s a method to guarantee players get to play at least two matches in a tournament. Fans might be more familiar with consolation bracket, but that term is not commonly used any longer.

The Open Era in tennis began in 1968. Prior to this, only amateur players were allowed to play in many of the top tournaments, including the Grand Slam events. The exclusion of professionals meant that tournaments often did not feature the best players of the era. Rod Laver in 1969 , Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only players in the Open Era to win all four of the Grand Slam tournaments in a single year.

If you see a Q next to a player’s name in a professional tournament draw, it means he is a qualifier. The player did not have a high enough ranking to gain automatic entry to a tournament and had to play in a qualifying tournament to earn a spot in the tournament proper. Fans saw this term recently in the headline, “Qualifier Beats Ailing Fish.”

Lucky Loser

This term is applied to a player who loses in the final round of a qualifying tournament but still gains access to the main draw. This happens when a player already in the main draw has to withdraw for some reason.

This is an exemption into a tournament for which the player did not otherwise qualify. Tournament sponsors and organizers are allowed a certain number of wild cards per tournament. These are usually given to up-and-coming local players and stars who will likely draw fans to the tournament. Venus Williams accepted a wild card spot to play in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami earlier this month.

This is the polite term tennis uses when a player quits in the middle of a match. If you see a tennis result that reads, for example, Petkovic d. Stosur, 6-3, 1-0, ret., it means that Stosur retired, or quit, during the match when Petkovic was leading 1-0 in the second set. The most common reasons players retire are injury and illness. Fans of Andy Roddick recall that he retired in the second round of the Australian Open this year.

If a player wins a match in a tournament but then cannot play the next match (again, normally due to injury), his would-be opponent wins the match in a walkover. We saw this recently when Rafael Nadal won his quarterfinal match at the Sony Ericsson Open but then could not play the next match. He would have played Andy Murray, who instead won the match in a walkover.

To break serve is to win when your opponent is serving. This is a big deal in professional tennis, when players often dominate when they are serving and matches can turn on a single break. The term up a break means that the player has broken one more time than her opponent during the set. A related term, on serve, means that both players have won all of their service games during a set. A famous example of players struggling to break their opponents was the 5th set of the 2009 Wimbledon final, when it took Roger Federer until the 30th game of the set to finally break Andy Roddick and win the set 16-14 (there is no tiebreaker in the 5th set at Wimbledon). Related terms include break point,break chance, hold serve and back on serve.