A lesson in tennis fan etiquette

Raising a racket is culturally considered impolite in most settings. For students at John Brown University, however, this practice became a customary tribute to spring many years ago.

Tennis season is here for the athletes of John Brown University, with the men’s and women’s teams both playing their first match in Conway, Arkansas on Feb. 17.

With tennis season comes the opportunity for students to support their tennis team, and with the opportunity to support the tennis team comes the inevitable question: How do you even cheer for tennis? According to the United States Tennis Association, very courteously.

“A player should always give the opponent the benefit of any doubt,” the USTA website said. Considered a gentleman’s sport, tennis is usually played without officials. Each player is responsible for calling the ball in or out if it lands on their side.

“[Opponents] cheer each other on a lot,” freshman tennis player Maddie Madewell said.  “If my opponent serves and I was just locked in place and I couldn’t even get to it because it was a really good serve, I’m going to say, ‘good serve.’”

Spectators are expected to be equally as gracious while cheering.

“Tennis, being the mental game that it is, requires fans to be respectful,” senior tennis player Cole Mowrer said. “I would love to have rowdy fans chanting cheers for us, but a lot of players find that distracting.” However, fans are encouraged to cheer positively after a play is completed, especially after exceptional serves, rallies, or shots.   

“The key part is really complimenting people on what they did right because it’s easy to see,” Madewell said. “It’s always okay to say, ‘good rally girls, good rally guys, excellent shot.’”

A few of the key rules to remember as a spectator include the following: remain quiet during the serve, do not boo or yell at the opponent and cheer enthusiastically after a good serve or hit.

“Just having people there is really awesome,” Madewell said. According to Madewell, the cordiality of tennis is not the only reason cheering can be so hard for spectators. Many fans do not know how to cheer for tennis because they do not fully understand the rules.

Madewell compared the point system to that of Wii tennis. Similar to the video game, the first point scored by either player is 15, the second is 30, the third is 40 and the next point wins the game. A player has to win by two points to finish the game. Unlike Wii tennis however, a player has to win six games, again winning by two. Once six games are won, a player wins a set. Two sets are played in in a match, unless each player wins one set in which case a third tie-breaking set is played. Basically, a player must score four points (winning by two) in order to win a game, they need to win six of those four-point games to win a set, and they need to win two sets to win the match.    

“It’s kind of complicated,” Madewell admitted. “You can’t really be a typical spectator with tennis a lot of times because it is very much a mental game.”

Regardless of the complicated rules, tennis fans are in high demand. The JBU men’s and women’s tennis teams play in Siloam Springs on Mar. 16, Apr. 3, Apr. 10 and Apr. 15.