The score that really matters
In his Sept. 3 Outlook essay, “Why the most effective tennis player doesn’t always win the match,” Gabriel Allen complained about the point-game-set scoring system in tennis by suggesting that a losing player wins more total points in a match “more often than you’d think.” He reported that in the past four major tournaments this happened in 87 sets and 31 matches.
But that is not very often. In a major tournament with a 128-player draw, there are six rounds and 126 matches. If you multiply by eight (for the men’s and women’s draws in the four majors), that equals 1,008 matches — meaning that it occurred in only 3 percent of the matches. If you assume that the average number of sets in men’s majors is 3.5 and women’s is 2.3, the figure for sets is just below 3 percent. This hardly “tilt [s] the field to favor the inferior” nor provides a basis for changing the scoring system, let alone moving to “one extended tiebreaker,” as Allen suggested.
I’m more sympathetic to his complaints about presidential elections. We’ve had 58 of those, with five winners who lost the popular vote (slightly less than 9 percent). So amend the Constitution, but leave the tennis scoring system alone.
Jeffrey S. Lubbers, Takoma Park