What is the definition of A match in tennis?

Tennis, a popular racquet sport, is played between two players in singles matches or four players in doubles matches. The objective of the game is to hit a tennis ball in such a manner that it lands within the opponent’s court while following the rules of tennis. A match in tennis consists of a sequence of points, games, and sets, with the overall winner determined by the best of three or five sets.

In a tennis match, players take turns serving and receiving the ball, with each point earned by making the opponent fail to return the ball according to the rules. Winning a game requires scoring at least four points with a lead of two or more. Typically, one set is won by winning at least six games with a lead of two or more games; however, a tiebreaker may be played if the games are tied at 6-6. The match’s structure and rules can vary slightly depending on the specific tennis tournament or event.

Different types of tennis matches exist, such as singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, played on various surfaces like grass, clay, hard courts, and artificial grass. The duration of a match can vary greatly, depending on the players’ skill level and the formats of the specific events – some lasting for an hour while others may extend for several hours.

Key Takeaways

  • Tennis matches involve a sequence of points, games, and sets, ultimately determining the winner.
  • The match structure requires players to win games and sets with specific leads to claim victory.
  • Singles, doubles, and mixed doubles are different types of tennis matches played on a variety of surfaces.

Basics of a Tennis Match

Starting the Game

A tennis match begins with a coin toss or a racquet spin to decide which player serves first. The server initiates the game by standing behind the baseline and striking the ball into the opponent’s service box diagonally. The serving player has two opportunities to make a legal serve. If the server fails to land the ball in the service box, it is considered a fault. Failing to make a legal serve twice in a row results in a double fault, and the opponent gains a point.

Scoring System

The scoring in tennis is quite unique and could be confusing for beginners. The point system consists of points, games, and sets. A tennis match is won by the player who wins the best of three or best of five sets, depending on the event. Grand Slams, for instance, have men playing best of five sets while women play best of three at all major events, including Grand Slams and ATP or WTA Tour.

In each game, the point system starts with 0 (“love”) and progresses as follows: 15, 30, and 40. A player must win at least 4 points and be ahead by 2 points to claim a game. If the score reaches 40-40, called “deuce,” a player must win two points in a row to gain the game.

To win a set, a player must be the first to win at least 6 games while leading by 2 games. A tiebreaker is played if the score reaches 6-6, in which a player must reach 7 points and be ahead by 2 points to win.

Below is an example of a tennis score:


In this example, Player A wins the first set 6-4, Player B wins the second set 6-3, and Player A wins the third set 7-6, resulting in a 2-1 victory for Player A.

Match Structure


A tennis match consists of multiple sets, with each set being a separate competition within the overall match. Players earn points by winning individual games, which are the smaller components that make up a set. In most matches, a player must win at least six games to win a set. However, they must also have a two-game lead over their opponent. If both players have won at least six games but neither has a two-game lead, a tie-breaker is used to determine the winner.

There are different formats for sets in tennis matches. For example, men’s singles matches in Grand Slam tournaments follow a best-of-five-set format, while women’s singles matches use a best-of-three-set format. Regular tour events and many other competitions follow the best-of-three-set format for both men and women.


A tie-breaker is used when both players reach a 6-6 score in a set, indicating that neither player has a two-game lead. The purpose of the tie-breaker is to fairly and efficiently determine the winner of a closely contested set.

During the tie-breaker, the player who scores at least 7 points with a difference of 2 points over their opponent wins the set. For example, a player might win a tie-breaker with a score of 7-5, but has to continue the tie-breaker if the score reaches 7-7. The tie-breaker continues until one player has established a two-point lead.

Here’s a summary of the key elements in match structure:

  • A match consists of sets.
  • A set consists of at least 6 games with a two-game lead.
  • If the score is 6-6 in a set, a tie-breaker is used.
  • Tie-breaker requires at least 7 points and a two-point lead.

Understanding the structure of a tennis match helps to appreciate the intricacies of the sport and allows for a fuller enjoyment of watching or playing the game.

Types of Tennis Matches

There are different formats of tennis matches, which can be categorized into three main types: Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. These formats offer various levels of competition and excitement for tennis players and fans worldwide.


In singles tennis, two players compete against each other in a one-on-one match. This type of tennis is often showcased in professional tournaments, with separate competitions for men and women. Singles matches are played on a standard tennis court but do not use the tramlines, also known as alleys1. The focus in singles tennis is very much on individual player performance, skill, and strategy. Here are some key aspects of singles tennis:

  • Scoring system: Tennis scoring typically consists of points, games, and sets, with a player needing to win six games to claim a set and a best-of-three or best-of-five sets format to win the match2.
  • Court size: Singles matches use a smaller court, excluding the doubles alleys on each side1.
  • Tactics: In singles, players must develop their own strategies and cover the entire court by themselves, making it a physically demanding and mentally challenging game.


Doubles tennis involves two teams of two players each, with teammates playing side by side. This format is often played as an all-male or all-female match, and requires players to utilize a wider court, including the doubles alleys. Doubles tennis emphasizes teamwork, communication, and strategy. Some characteristics of doubles tennis include:

  • Court size: Doubles matches use the full width of the court, including the tramlines or alleys1.
  • Rotation: Teammates must rotate positions during a point, usually with one player at the baseline and the other at the net, constantly adjusting based on the ball’s movement and the opponents’ tactics.
  • Serving: In doubles, players on each team alternate serving games, and the receiving team can choose which player will return the serve.

Mixed Doubles

Mixed doubles is a variation of doubles tennis that features teams comprising one male and one female player. This format adds an extra layer of excitement due to the combination of playing styles from both genders. Mixed doubles is often seen in major tennis tournaments like the Grand Slams, and it shares many of the same characteristics as doubles tennis, such as:

  • Court size: Mixed doubles also uses the full width of the court, including the doubles alleys.
  • Serving order: Serving order alternates between male and female players, with the male player serving to the male opponent and the female player serving to the female opponent.
  • Tactics: Teams must find the right balance between male and female players’ strengths and weaknesses and adapt their strategies accordingly.