Game, set and match – the unforgiving nature of tennis

No matter how much you try to rationalise the situation, 6-0 6-0 is very bleak

My partner and I recently lost 6-0 6-0 in a game of tennis. It wasn’t hugely significant. We weren’t playing in the qualifying stages of the upcoming French Open or anything like that.

Still, it was a club game and the score went up on the notice board, just inside the main door, for all to see.

And no matter how much you try to rationalise the situation, 6-0 6-0 is very bleak.

In truth, even though I work as a teacher and have invoked that whole “it’s the taking part that counts” approach many times, there can be no argument that not only is 6-0 6-0 bleak, very bleak, it is existential in its bleakness. But then the tennis scoring system doesn’t take any prisoners. It was devised apparently by Henry VIII in those fallow periods when he wasn’t distracted by all those pesky arrangements for decapitating a nearest and dearest.


As such, it is entirely unforgiving. You can play your heart out at, say, 30-15 to draw level, scurrying and scrambling all over the place. But if you don’t actually go on to win the game in question, every last scrap of that effort will turn to dust.

I like to think, therefore, that it was entirely Henry’s fault that my partner and I lost that match. As indeed it was his fault that we lost all those other matches in the round-robin we’d been involved in for what seemed like years at that point. Possibly decades.

We’d only picked up a handful of games in our previous matches so we kind of knew that a 6-0 6-0 was on the cards. Our opponents didn’t throw us a pity game, though, which was good. They didn’t dump the ball into the net or hit wild, crazy shots that had no chance of keeping between the lines.

They fought for every point so that when it was all over and they had won and we went up to the net to hit our rackets off each other – a strange but not unlikeable by-product of Covid – it felt right and proper.

At one stage, early in the process, I wanted to bail on the whole thing. Start to offer byes. Thank you so much but let’s just acknowledge the obvious here and all save ourselves a bit of trouble and stay on the sofa instead and watch Netflix.

My partner was having none of it, though. We were going to see this through to the bitter end. And anyway the only way to improve at playing tennis was to play people better than us.

And damn it, it is very hard to argue with someone when they’re talking sense.

Mind you, this habit I’ve developed of volleying right back at an opponent, probably didn’t help – or to be more exact, to an opponent and as often as not to their forehand with the ball arriving high and loose and so enticing right there beside them so that all they have to do is wallop it down the tramlines.

Yes indeed, this is not a good choice of shot.

We did have one tiny flicker of a moment, though, when things weren’t at all bad. In match four or five, we somehow found ourselves two games ahead in the opening set. “We’re two games ahead in the opening set!”, I announced to my partner as she or I or somebody went to serve.

Naturally enough, we lost that set 6-2, as the universe doesn’t take kindly to being challenged in such a manner.

Of course, we went on to lose that particular match but the final result was 6-2 6-3 which I would take any day. But 6-0 6-0 is a different kettle of fish, though and has the potential to undermine that core belief that rushing home to change and then off to the courts is an endeavour worth pursuing.

Except the thing is, it didn’t.

All that school talk of internal validation and doing your best and putting yourself out there oddly had an effect. I guess if you say something enough times, you end up – kind of, maybe – believing it.

Who knew?

And so, by the time my partner and I got to that part of the road where we both go our separate ways, we were as good as over it.

And anyway there were more matches to organise. More matches to lose. Netflix would have to wait.

Not sure Henry would have approved. But sure what of it.