The tennis season is one of the longest in professional sports, and while tennis players may compete in dozens of events throughout the year, there are four that stand above the rest: The Grand Slam Majors. The majors comprise the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, and capturing any one of the four grand slam titles is a career goal for any player who has taken to the tennis court. Each of these four events has its own unique history.
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam event of the year and is held during two weeks in January. It was held for the first time in 1905. Since then it has undergone some substantial changes, including moving from grass courts to hard courts in 1988. The Australian Open has also given tennis fans some of the most memorable matches in tennis history.
The 2012 Men's Singles final, which pitted Novak Djokovic against Rafael Nadal, is one of the most famous finals in recent memory. The match lasted five sets, with nearly every one going down to the wire. It took nearly six hours to complete. In the end Djokovic was able to defend his 2011 title. (He also captured the 2013 Australian Open title to make it three in a row.)
Held between late May and early June at legendary Roland Garros, the French Open is among the most unique major sporting events in the world. Unlike the other three Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open is held on clay courts, which not only adds an unusual element to the game, but also sets it apart from most other competitions. The Open dates back to the 1890s, but it was more than 30 years until players outside of France were allowed to enter.
During the tournament's lengthy history, few players have been more dominant on its clay surface than Nadal on the men's side and Justine Henin on the women's. Between 2005 and 2012, Nadal won seven times (only losing in 2009), while Henin has captured four titles.
Arguably the most famous of the four Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon is also the oldest. The event has been held since 1877 at the legendary All England Club, and it is the only one of the majors to be played on grass courts. Much like the other tournaments, Wimbledon has helped turn big name players into legends. Roger Federer (who holds 17 Grand Slam titles as of 2013) has won Wimbledon seven times, and it's where he has had his greatest successes.
Since it was first hosted in 1881, winning the US Open has been the goal for all American tennis players. The event is held each year in New York City, with the finals being played in legendary Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the same way Federer is synonymous with Wimbledon, Pete Sampras was known to play his best tennis at the US Open - he captured five singles titles during his career. The same can be said for Steffi Graf, who has five titles of her own.
Have you ever tuned into a tennis match halfway through and found yourself confused by the score? Hey, not to worry, you’re not alone. Tennis is unique in that it's scored unlike any other sport out there, and unless you're familiar with the style, it can be hard to follow. The good news is that the scoring method is relatively simple. All it takes is a little time to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the game to be a tennis scoring pro.
When it comes to scoring tennis, the most obvious question is, how do you win? On the men's side, you have to win three sets to come away as the winner, while women have to capture two sets. That seems simple enough, but what exactly is a set? That's where things get a bit more complicated. Each set is composed of games, which are in turn made up of individual points - each of which requires a little further examination.
So, to recap so far, players score points in order to win games, and each game is a part of a set. Got it?
To win a set, you have to be the first player to capture five games, and to win a game you need to be the first to get to 40 points. Points are scored a little bit differently than in most sports. Like many other competitions, players start out tied 0-0 in each game (the technical term for “zero” in tennis is "love"), but that's where the similarities end. After hitting a point-winning shot, a player moves from 0 to 15, then 15 to 30 and then 30 to 40. After reaching 40, the next point gives them the win. Easy enough, right? At least, it is until the players are tied at 40-40, which is known as "deuce" around the tennis circles. When the players find themselves tied, one needs to score two consecutive points to win the game. In other words, if you’re tied at 40, the winner has to win by two points to win the game.
The first player to capture six games wins the set - most of the time. Just like you have to win by two points to capture a game, you have to win by two games to capture a set. Of course, this particular rule can vary from tournament to tournament, but it’s a good, general rule of thumb.
Okay, so maybe scoring tennis isn’t the easiest exercise in the world. But hey, watch a few matches, and it’ll all start to make sense! The best way to watch tennis, of course, is live and in person. You can “score” your tickets to the 2013 US Open on the official US Open Ticket Exchange!