Do you have great tennis sportsmanship? 10 tips to win and lose in tennis gracefully

I am not great at losing tennis matches. I am such an emotional person that I get pretty wound up trying to win.  As I have been thinking about this a lot (meaning I am losing a lot lol)  I am reminded of what I want to become and how I should act when I lose.  I hope this post helps you as much as I hope it helps me!

There are many awards in tennis that celebrate great sportsmanship and well they should!  While we love the conflict and tension that tennis provides, when all is said and done the champion is the victor and the runner-up is the left in 2nd place.  There may only be one champion, but both players have won the right to play an excellent match on the biggest stages!

This year The Laureus World Sportsman of the Year is @  who has also won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award.  “The Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award is voted by the ATP players from the nominees. The award goes to the player who, throughout the year, conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity, who competed with his fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness and who promoted the game through his off-court activities.”

Since 1977 when the award was first created Roger Federer has won the award a historic 13 times.   Federer is an excellent role model of how we should win or lose in the game of tennis and in the game of life.

For us mere mortals, the act of winning and losing in the heat of our public tennis battles and how we handle these moments is just as much a challenge as the match itself.  With emotions roaring and tempers flaring as we give our 100% effort to win, it’s not hard to lose control of our intelligence, kindness, and graciousness.

Here are ten tips to successfully win or lose graciously navigating that crossroads moments whether you are champion or runner-up.

1. It is the serverʼs responsibility to announce the score before each point is played. Calling the score when serving will save a possible argument regarding scores when both players are fuzzing on the game score.

2. If you are not sure whether your opponentʼs shot is in, itʼs in. If a ball hits the line, itʼs in. If your partner calls it in, itʼs in. You can’t complain about a call on the other side. Champions in life call shots honestly and win with a clear conscious.

3. Even if you are playing badly, try to appear like you are having fun. You will play better with a positive attitude. Avoid being disrespectful to your partner or opponent by allowing your attitude to ruin his/her fun. (Is this you?)

4. Poor sportsmanship is a sign of poor emotional control. Compliment partners and opponents on good shots. Showing frustration or irritation in your own play demoralizes your partner and gives confidence to your opponent. Learn not to give away the game through your emotional control and consider it part of the strategy to win.

5. Collect balls from your side and gently bounce them over to the server. When possible try not to make the server chase the balls. Hand the balls to the opposing team on changeovers.

6. Congratulate your opponents regardless of who won, shake their hands and thank them for a good match. If you are a sore loser, try not to look like one. This moment is a test of your character and manners.

7. Learning to win with class and humility and losing gracefully show a strength of character and the wisdom that gets you invited back to play and makes friends. Be a class act!  Tennis is a community sport and people talk and make decisions on who they want to join them for tennis play and who they don’t.

8. Have fun, be a joy to play with and respect your partner and opponent. At the end of the day, Tennis is just a game you play that does not define you or dictate all value of your life even though it feels like it at that important moment.  Stay positive and remember who you are outside of tennis.  You will have more invites and more friends when you learn to play with others with the grace of a champion.

9.  Add perspective.  Billie Jean King said, “For me, losing a tennis match isn’t failure it’s research.”  There is nothing more instructive to our tennis game than a loss.  Analyzing and researching why we lost helps us see our weaknesses and improve our game.  We can thank those that beat us initially for showing us where we need to improve.

10.  Enjoy the game!  Jimmy Connors famously said, “Winning a tennis match is the greatest thing in life!  The second greatest thing in life: Losing a tennis match.”  The fact that you are healthy enough to enjoy the greatest game of all time and can play at your current level is nothing short of a miracle.  It’s a blessing to play a game rather than slave away at work or be in an even worse situation that so many of our fellow human beings are in.  Enjoy the game and enjoy the moment.  Thankfulness is contagious and is the spirit of a Champion in life and on the court.


Passionate Tennis player and team leader of the LoveSetMatch tennis blog living in the city of Angeles. Check out our podcast "TennisPal Chronicles" and say hi @LoveSetMatch_