The tennis scoring system is very different from most other sports.
It uniquely increases the stress of competition because throughout the match some points are substantially more important than others.
In other sports the score is generally cumulative throughout the contest, and whoever has the most points at the end wins.
In baseball, for example, you simply keep adding up the runs, and the winning team is the one that has the most after nine innings. It’s very straightforward.
Football, soccer, and basketball are essentially the same except that the game is over when time runs out. Still, each team just keeps adding up their points.
Even golf is the same except it’s backwards – the winning player has fewer points (strokes) than the others. Of course there is a great deal of pressure in all sports if the scores are close toward the end of the contest, but none are as continuously stressful as tennis.
Tennis: Winning the
by Allen Fox, Ph.D. Buy It Now »
Consider this situation: If you are playing a close set, say you are up 5-4 or 6-5, and you reach game point there is a huge swing in the match if you win that one point. You will have won about as many total points as your opponent, and should, for all intents and purposes be about even.
But winning the next point gives you the set, and you suddenly have half the match under your belt while, at the same time, you’ve wiped out all of your opponent’s points.
Essentially, you have half a match, and your opponent goes back to zero. That’s an enormous discrepancy hinging on the outcome of a single point, especially when the two players are actually about even.
Moreover, since the play is so evenly balanced you are well-aware of the danger looming behind the loss of that point.
Lose it, and it would take very little for your opponent to turn the tables on you. He could win the game with two points and take the set with eight more. Instead of being up half a match, it would be you going back to zero and your opponent who would be up half a match.
This puts extraordinary pressure on the outcome of a single point.
There will be even more pressure on the players if the score reaches 6-all, and they play a tie-breaker. Now the points are all very important, and it becomes a sprint to the finish under a constant load of mental pressure.
When one of the players gets to set point in the breaker, say at 6-5 or 7-6, the pressure ratchets up yet another notch. If you’re up, you are one point away from winning the set, but only three points away from losing it.
And all of this is happening in the middle of the match, not at the end. In a two-out-of-three-set contest it can go on twice before culminating in the big showdown in the third set.