Professional tennis: A beginner’s guide to the 2024 season

Graphic by James Fay

The reality of tennis at the highest level.

It may seem as simple as hitting a fuzzy yellow ball over a net, but in reality, tennis is arguably the most grueling and demanding professional sport.

The professional tennis season calendar for 2024 is loaded. It comprises approximately 60 events in about 30 different countries, played on three different surfaces (hard-court, clay-court, and grass-court). Tournaments are categorized based on their prestige, prize money, and ranking points awarded. The categories include Grand Slam tournaments otherwise known as Majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), Masters 1000 tournaments, 500-level tournaments, and 250-level tournaments.

Tennis has a unique scoring system. Games make up sets, and sets make up matches. A set is won by the first player to claim six games. Once a point is won, scoring starts at 15, then progresses to 30, then 40, and finally, the game. If both players reach 40, it’s called “deuce.” After deuce, a player must win two consecutive points to claim the game. Matches are typically decided by whoever wins the best of three sets. The only instance where a match is decided by the best of five sets is at Majors, but only for the men, as has been tradition for decades.

Tennis players have similar goals—to win tournaments and to increase their world ranking. Winning one of the four Grand Slam tournaments is known as the pinnacle of tennis, and only a very small percentage of players can say they’ve reached it. Not only does the sport require physical toughness, but being mentally tough is equally as important.  

The 2024 season is off to a rocking start. Both the men’s and the women’s competitions have seen thrilling moments, whirlwinds of emotions, emerging talents, as well as solidified greatness.

As it does every year, the season begins on the other side of the world, in Australia. Competitors head Down Under early to get acclimated to Aussie conditions. This includes practice tournaments in Brisbane and Adelaide, followed by the first Major of the year in Melbourne.

On the women’s side, world number two Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus won her second straight Australian Open title, which also happened to be her second career Major title. It was a very straightforward title run for her, as she won the tournament without losing one set.

On the men’s side, this year’s Australian Open was one of the most exciting Majors in recent history. A record tying 35 matches went to a deciding fifth set, with one of them lasting four hours and twenty-three minutes, while ending at 3:39 a.m. Australian time. In the end, it was the 22-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner who came out on top beating the likes of world number one and 24-time Major champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, followed by a win against world number four Daniil Medvedev in the finals. This was the first Major win of Sinner’s young career, and certainly not the last.

Players are currently competing in what’s known as the Sunshine Swing. This includes back-to-back Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida. They will then head to Europe until mid-July. The rest of the 2024 tennis season is undoubtedly going to be action-packed.

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