Whilst the concept of tennis is fairly straightforward the scoring system used in tennis matches can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the sport.
Terms such as love, tie break and deuce may be alien to you currently, but by the time you’ve finished reading this post you’ll have a thorough understanding of how tennis scoring works.
How does the scoring work in tennis?
Scoring in tennis is split into 4 phases, and in this post we’ll break down each phase, explaining each in a way that is easy to understand.
The 4 phases of scoring in tennis are:
Tennis points explained: How to win a point in tennis
There are six ways of winning a point in tennis.
Winner – A winner is when a player hits the ball into the opponent’s half of the court and the opponent doesn’t make contact with the ball.
Ace – A type of ‘winner’, an ace is when a player hits a serve, and their opponent makes no contact with the ball.
Double Fault – If the server fails to find the service box diagonally opposite them with both their 1st and 2nd serve consecutively then they will lose the point and it will be awarded to the opponent.
Net Error – If a player hits the ball into the net during a rally, then they will lose that point and it will be awarded to the opponent.
Boundary Error – If a player hits the ball outside the playing area (either wide of the marked sidelines or long of the end lines) then the ball is called ‘out’, and the point is lost and awarded to the opponent.
Double Bounce – If the ball is hit into the opponent’s half of the court and bounces twice before the opponent can reach to hit the ball, then a point is won.
Tennis games explained: How to score a tennis game
A tennis game is won when a player wins 4 points. At the start of each game a player starts from 0 points (also known as love). From there they go to 15, 30, 40 and then the game-winning point.
However, if the score reaches 40-40 then the score is declared as ‘deuce’. To win a game that goes to deuce a player must win 2 consecutive points. The first point won following deuce is known as ‘advantage’ and if a second consecutive point is won the game is secured. If the opposing player wins the point whilst the other player has the advantage the score goes back to deuce and play continues until a player wins 2 consecutive points.
0 points = Love
1 point = 15 points
2 points = 30 points
3 points = 40 points
4 points = Game won unless the score reaches deuce
40-40 (40 all) = Deuce
Tennis sets explained: How many games are in a set of tennis
To win a set you need to win 6 games and win by 2 clear games, for example 6-4. If a score reaches 6-5, then the player leading must win a seventh game in order to win the set. If the score reaches 6-6 a tiebreak game is played to decide the winner of the set.
Once a set goes to a tie break the set is no longer about winning games and instead focuses on winning points. The first player to win 7 points and by a 2-point margin is the winner. If the score in the tie break reaches 6-6 then play continues until one player wins by 2 points. Once this happens the wining player wins the set 7-6.
The scoring in a tiebreak is different to that of a regular game, going up from 0 (love) to 7 rather than 0 to 15, 30 and 40. The only time this differs is in the final set of grand slam matches which use a first to 10-point tie break instead (still using a 2-point margin rule).
Tennis matches explained: How many sets are in a tennis match
All tennis matches are played over 3 sets with the exception of men’s matches at grand slam tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open which are played over 5 sets. They are ‘best of’ matches, meaning that to win a 3-set match you need to win 2 sets out of 3 and to win a 5-set match you need to win 3 sets out of 5. Another way of winning a match is by default. This is where a player can win the match if their opponent forfeits due to injury or is disqualified.
Other tennis scoring FAQs
How long does a tennis match last?
On average, a 3-set match will last 1 hour and 30 minutes and a 5-set match will last 3 hours. The longest ever tennis match on record lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes at Wimbledon in 2010 between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. The fifth and final set ran until Isner won it 70-68 to win the match 3 sets to 2. This record will unlikely ever be broken as this prompted the tie-break rule to be employed to decide the final set of games.
What is the history of tennis scoring?
Whilst the origins are unclear, there are records of today’s scoring system dating back to almost the beginning of the sport in the 12th century. However back then the scoring was 15, 30, 45. A poem written in 1415 about a game of tennis between Kind Henry V and the French Dauphin uses this method of scoring. It is thought that French students were shortening the word 45 to 40, which is where the 40 points originated from before the modern game was established in the 19th century.
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By: David Nevin