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This sentence is from my book. The sentence is about Serbian tennis player Bojana Jovanovski. How do you pronounce 3-6 6-4 6-1 in this context?

Unfortunately, the day finished badly for Bojana because she lost the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

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  • I would have thought tennis scores were international: player A wins 3 games, player B wins 6 games and the first set. This is general reference question, it is not difficult to find the answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 20 at 9:56
  • This is well-explained in Wikipedia:Tennis Scoring System Jan 20 at 21:04
  • With commas that (intentionally?) failed to be included. 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Then the only question should be, do you pronounce the hyphen, which is no, but only in tennis. In every other sport it's pronounced to and it's a single set of numbers that are scores because tennis is wack and also uses words that mean something about the score, or something.
    – Mazura
    Jan 21 at 10:57
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    @Mazura - "In every other sport"… The biggest sport in the world, football, is pronounced the same way. Manchester beat Arsenal 4-1 [four one]. (Teams chosen at random, no affiliation ;)) Jan 21 at 11:22
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    @Mazura Yes, the sport built around playing a ball with your feet, Jan 21 at 14:34

3 Answers 3

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Tennis officials/commentators say Three six, six four, six one (short for three games to six etc.)

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    in what kind of sports do native speakers say three to six six to four six to one? Jan 20 at 9:29
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    @AntoniaA 3-6 includes all the numbers in between, as in "study pages 3-10" which means from page 3 until page 10. There is no sport that uses a similar score system.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 20 at 9:52
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    @Mari-LouA Actually... At least here in the US, that type of display of a score, just with spaces around the '-', is very normal in a lot of sports, and the typical reading is, indeed, ‘X to Y’. Jan 20 at 18:04
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    When giving the score for a tennis match, the player who won the match is listed first in the set scores. So, in this example, if A won the match over B, the score "three six, six four, six one" means that player A lost the first set (winning only three games to B's six), but won the other two sets (winning six games in each, to B's four in set 2 and one in set 3). This is well-explained in Wikipedia:Tennis Scoring System Jan 20 at 21:03
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    Though it is not in the original question, and again is "tennis only", perhaps a comment that "0" is pronounced "love" in match scores should be added for "in general"?
    – Mycroft
    Jan 21 at 16:07
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When you see 3-6 it normally indicates all the numbers from the lowest to the highest, as in

"Study pages 3-10"

Said as: Study pages three to ten, which means starting from page 3 and continue until page 10.

Children aged 8-12 (eight to twelve) can enter the competition.

Any child between the ages of 8 and 12 can participate.

They work from 9 AM-6 PM

They start work from 9 AM and finish at 6 PM

In tennis it is possible to say the score is “Three games to six [games], six games to four” etc. but more often than not, tennis scores are communicated in this way: "three six, six four,” etc.

The prepositions to/with are often used with the verb compare. And in English we use the following constructions to talk about a range of things

8. from something (to something) used to show the range of something
The temperature varies from 80 degrees to minus 10.
The store sells everything from shoelaces to computers.
Conditions vary from school to school.
Source: Oxford Learner’s Dictionary

18a used when showing the whole range of numbers between and including the two that you mention
a toy suitable for children aged three to five
from...to: the numbers from one to ten
Source: Macmillan

But to be clear, there is no sport that uses the score system “three to six, six to four, six to one" that the OP asked in a comment.

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    "The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day: / The score stood four to two, ... ." The quote is from 1888 but the last three words are true to the way we talk today.
    – David K
    Jan 20 at 18:10
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To slightly clarify the correct answer already given by Kate

In tennis a competition is broken into Games, Sets, and the Match.

  • First to 5 wins a game, but you must win by two and the points are insanely called out as Love (0), 15 (1), 30 (2), 40 (3), Game (4). If you've won 3 and I've won 0, you're ahead 40-Love.
  • Each set is made up of 6 or more games. Again you must win by 2, and if a set gets to 6-6 there is a tiebreaker. So the highest score without a tiebreaker is 7-5, and with a tiebreaker is 7-6
  • A match is made up of 3 or 5 sets (some Men's matches are 5 sets, some are 3 Women's and mixed doubles are usually 3.

So the long form of your score (3-6, 6-4, 6-1) is "Bojana lost one set to two. Three games to six, six games to four, and six games to one. But pronounced simply "three six, six four, six one".

Additionally if there is a tie-breaker in one of the sets, that is added after the score for that set, so if the second set had been won in a tie-breaker it would be written as "3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1", but it would not typically be pronounced in the score.

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