More than a handful of sayings involve the term set in tennis, so let’s take a look at each along with their meaning.
Game, Set, Match
When a player wins a match, the phrase “Game, Set, Match” is frequently used to express that the player has won. By winning the final point of the match, the player wins the game, wins the set, and wins the match.
Example: “That’s game, set, match for Federer.”
Straight sets refer to a scenario where a player wins their match without losing a set. In a best of three sets match, a player who wins two sets in a row wins in straight sets. In a best of five sets match, a player who wins three sets in a row wins in straight sets.
Straight sets victories are advantages for players as they progress through a tournament. It usually means they’ve won convincingly and spent less time on the court, thus keeping their bodies fresher.
Example: “Up until the semis, Swiatek had a solid tournament with straight-sets victories over all his opponents.”
A player wins a golden set when they avoid losing a single point in a set, which means they only had to play 24 points to accomplish the feat.
There are only 15 recorded occurrences of a golden set, only two of which have occurred on the pro tour. A ‘golden match’ takes things a step further where a player doesn’t lose a single point the entire match.
Example: “Who do you think would be most likely to win a golden set, Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic?”
The last point before the conclusion of a set is a set point. In other words, the player in the lead only needs to win one more point to take the set.
A set point is also a game point, but it’s more significant. Furthermore, a set point to win a match is a match point.
Example: “Serena has set point. If he can close out this set, he will be in good shape because his opponent is looking tired.”
When a player defeats their opponent 6-0 in a set, the tennis community often refers to it as a bagel because the zero resembles the shape of a bagel. You may also hear the term double bagel, when a player wins the match 6-0, 6-0.
Although the notion of a triple bagel exists in a five-set match where the player wins 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, it’s rare. Since the start of the Open Era in 1968, there have only been 17 occurrences in professional tennis.
Example: “Sinner served up a bagel in the first set. Let’s see if he can keep up the strong momentum in the second.”
Dropping a Set
When players lose a set, they have “dropped” the set. Fans often use this phrase when looking back at a player’s results.
Example: “Barty hasn’t dropped a set this entire tournament, so her legs should be fresh heading into the finals.”
Up or Down a Set
When players have one more set than their opponent, they’re up a set. On the other hand, if they have one less set than their opponent, they’re down a set in the match.
Example: “Monfils is up a set, but he’s getting a little careless in the second. If he can’t tighten up his game, he will be in trouble.”
In tennis, the deciding set is the match’s final set. In a best-of-three-set match, where one player needs to win two sets to claim victory, the third set is the deciding set.
Similarly, in a best-of-five-set match, where one player needs to win three sets to claim victory, the fifth set is the deciding set.
Example: “Fans are in for a treat as we head into the deciding set of the ladies’ final in New York.”
Force a Set
When a player is on the brink of losing the match but manages to win a set, they’re forcing the next set or requiring their opponent to play the next set before the match is over.
Example: “Nadal wasn’t playing up to his standards in the first two sets, but he’s managed to force a third set to stay in this match.”
In tennis, players split sets when each wins one set.
Example: “Kerber and Muguruza have split sets, both playing excellent. This match is up for grabs in the third.”