Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tennis at Wimbledon is Difficult to Learn

C and I were watching the Men's semifinals at Wimbledon yesterday afternoon.  It was a match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and it promised to be a good match.  Even C was interested in watching this.  And as we were watching, C was immediately fascinated by the score at the top left of the ESPN box.  Showing the names, the game score, and the set score, it seemed to be just a jumble of numbers that made little sense to a mind that was used to seeing baseball scores.  He grew so curious that he started to ask me questions.

"Dad, who do you want to win?"  He asked, obviously priming me for more difficult questions later on.  Without hesitation, I answered that I wanted Roger Federer to win the match.  He was the underdog and the elder statesman of the tournament.  Of course I wanted him to win.

"Dad what does the score 40-15 mean at the top of the screen there?  What does Ad mean when it replaces the score?"  I then talked to him about how games in Tennis were played.  I think that it just got him more confused.  "So if a player has zero, they call it love?  That's stupid!"

"So if Federer wins this game, then he goes on to the Championship?"  Not quite, I tell him.  If he wins a game, that is merely one game in one set.  They have a lot of games to play.  I go on to explain that these guys are trying to win sets by being the first to 6 games while still winning by two games.

That answer really didn't help since he now quizzed me about sets and how those are scored.  "So they they are trying to win the Set?" I tell him that tennis players try to win sets and that they need to win three sets out of 5 in order to win the match.

"But wait, Serena Williams only won two sets and she went on to the championship."  I explain that women have to win 2 sets and men have to win 3 sets.  I pretend that all tournaments work this way even though most men's tournaments go the best of 3 sets too.  We won't be watching that tennis though.

C then examines the results from the previous day.  This is when things get interesting. "Dad, why did that guy win a set by winning 7 games, I thought he has to win 6 games to win a set?"  I explain to him that to win a set you have to win by 2 games.  "But that guy won the set 7-6, Dad..."  Shaking my head at this point I try to patiently explain that if two opponents are tied at 6 then they play a tiebreaker.  I cross my fingers hoping that he doesn't ask me about the rules pertaining to tie breakers.  I think it will make my head and C's head explode.  But instead he asks me an even better question.

"But Dad, what about that time two years ago when those two guys played that set that you talked about where one guy beat the other 61-59?  Good one.  I tell him that at Wimbledon and certain other tournaments, the last set has to go until one player wins by two and that there is no tie breaker. 

C looks at the TV screen and continues watching the match.  Federer is leading.  "You know a lot about tennis, Dad.  Were you good before you got old?"

"Do you want to go to the baseball field"  I finally say.  There, the rules are a lot easier to understand.

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