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What Is an Unforced Error in Tennis?

Let tennis pros Joe Perez and Kirk Moritz explain what an unforced error is in this Howcast video.


Okay. You hear a lot on the tennis TV broadcasts about how he made so many unforced errors, or that's an unforced error. What is an unforced error? What do they mean by that?

The definition might depend on who's playing. If I'm a beginner there are probably very few unforced errors because I could miss anything. But for Roger Federer, an unforced error for him is different than an unforced error for me. He can get to more balls.

So depending on the level of the play, if that particular player can make that shot 70% of the time, the 30% that he misses are unforced errors. If he can't make it 50% of the time we wouldn't call it an unforced error because it's 50-50. But anything that he normally makes, when he misses it it's unforced.

We need to zero in on unforced errors because that's what decides matches. It's not how many winners we hit, it's how many gifts we give. We want to share the errors. So if we can cut down on the unforced errors and keep that extra ball in play, maybe our opponent will be equally generous with us and give us a few back.

That statistic will always be emphasized, like Curt said, when you're watching a tennis match on TV, they will often mention that because pros are actually pros because they're unforced errors are low. Rarely do you hear about a pro having 40 unforced errors in a match. Often it's like 10 or 12 in an entire match. That's why they're pros. They don't give gifts away.

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