How Does Tennis Scoring Work? – Your Guide to Keeping Score

Understanding the tennis scoring system can be a little confusing initially, especially if it's your first time seeing a tennis match. In contrast to other sports, the scoring system uses some strange and unique terms that become easy once you get the drift of the scoring rules and terminologies.

In this article, I'll be taking you through the scoring system for tennis, explain tennis scoring, and everything you need to know about tennis rules.

How is Tennis Scored in a Match?

Let's start from scratch. When you and your opponent set out to play on a court, it's called a tennis match. In football, it's called a football game.

But, before we go to the scoring rules in detail, we should first look at how a match starts.

How Does the Match Start?

Like we have an umpire in a baseball game, there is an umpire in a tennis match. Umpires officiate tennis match and the score in tennis. The umpire will toss a coin, and whoever wins gets to decide on which side of the court they want to start from.

To learn about tennis court dimensions click here

Also, the winners serve first or could decide to receive first, like in American Football. Like in every other sport, the tennis scoring system starts with Love (zero) for both players.

How Is Tennis Scored?

In a match, there are four scoring points, and they are:

0 point = Love

1st point = 15

2nd point = 30

3rd point = 40

4th point = Game (if you win by two points, details to follow)

How to keep score in tennis

How tennis scores start is 0-0; however, in the tennis scoring rule, 0 points are called Love. More tennis score keeping rules is that the score is always called before a player serves. So when you start the match before the player serves the ball, the player will announce the score, "love, love" or other sports like ping pong you would say '0, 0".

Usually, the score of the person serving is called first, followed by that of the opponent. So let's assume you're serving first and you lose a point, the score is love-15. And if it's the other way round and you ace your opponent, the score is 15-love. If the score is 40-30, 40-15, or 40-Love then it is also called game point. Because the game is on the line and the player with 40 only needs to score one more point to win the game, hence game point in tennis.

If you have the same points with your opponent, for instance, 15-15 or 30-30, you say 15-all or 30-all, respectively. But if the tie is on 40, it is called a deuce (we will talk more on it shortly).

At the beginning of a game, you don't necessarily need to call out the point, but you may.

If you go on to win the four tennis scoring points, then you have won a game.

A game consists of four tennis points, and to win a game, and you need to earn all four points in tennis with at least two-point lead.

Winning six games earns you a one tennis set (details below).

Although, at the beginning of a new set, the score of the previous set is called. That is, at the start of the fourth set, the score of the three previous sets is called. Besides, when the sum of the game is odd, players switch sides. In simpler terms, players switch sides at the first, third, fifth, etc. game. It goes on in that manner.

Tennis scoring is the same for singles and tennis doubles

How many sets are in one match?

First, what is a set in tennis and how many sets in tennis?

A tennis score system is comprised of a set of six games. And for you to win a tennis set, you must win a total of six games with at least two matches ahead of your opponent. Example 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, etc. Usually, a tennis competition involves three sets.

However, in some professional men's tournament like the US Open, a match can extend to five tennis sets. In both cases, the person who wins two or three tennis sets wins the match, respectively.

A quick recap on the tennis score rules.

Let's assume there are three steps to win a tennis match. The first step is earning four scoring points to win a game. In the second step, you have to win six games to win a tennis set, and the third step is winning two tennis sets if its best-of-three or three sets if it's best-of-five to win a match.

How Long Are Tennis Matches?

A match does not have a specific duration. Let's get that first. Often, in a five-based-set, if the winner goes on to win three sets consecutively, it can end in about two hours. But that's not always the case. The average duration for the five-based-set tennis match is five hours, and that of the three-based-set is three hours. The longest match ever played was at Wimbledon, and it lasted for about eleven hours. If you ever have a match that goes that long than you might have to restring the racket. There's a lot of wear and tear on strings, that's why professionals bring more than one racquet to the match. 

Understanding Tennis Terminology

One of the unique things about the scoring in tennis is the seemingly strange scoring points. You'd wonder why tennis is scored 15, 30, 40, instead of 1, 2, 3, etc. Well, there is a reason for everything.

Let's get right into it.

scoring in tennis

Why Is Tennis Scored 15, 30, 40?

It's quite a long history, but I'll summarize it with this. Back in the days, there was a clock that faced the tennis court, and after each score, the pointer moved from 0 to 15, 30, 45, 60, and after, the game was over.

However, to allow deuce at 50 and to make the maximum time for the score 60 minutes, 45 was changed to 40.

What Does Love Mean in Tennis?

In a match, Love simply means zero in a single game. There are two popularly believed stories of where the term "love" came from. I'll tell you both. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that its history comes from the informal phrase "for love," which means "without stakes being wagered." Some believe it goes along with the sports long history of etiquette. Another theory is that "love" came from the French word l'oeuf, which translates to the egg. And a zero on a scoreboard resembles an egg. Both theories are interesting, but I guess we will never know for sure.

What Is Deuce In Tennis?

For more on understanding tennis scoring rules, a deuce is when both players are tied on 40. This situation is an interesting one and might seem a little confusing if you're new to the scoring system. But just stick with me, and I'll explain in simple terms.

If you and your opponent are tied at 40-40 points, that is a deuce. In the game, you would not call out 40-40 before you would serve. You would say, deuce. For you to win the game, you need to have two consecutive points. If you earn a point and your opponent wins one, it becomes a deuce again.

Here is an example;

You and your opponent are on 40-40 points, which is a deuce.

If you win the next point, that's an Ad-In for you (which means advantage for you)

If your opponent wins the next point, it becomes a deuce again.

But if after winning your first point, which is an Ad-In, you win the two consecutive points, then it's a game for you. You win.

Also, if you lose the point after a deuce, it's an Ad-Out (an advantage for your opponent).

And if your opponent wins the second consecutive point, then your opponent wins the game.

There are no restrictions on the number of times a game can revert to a deuce. And often, it extends into several hours.

What is a breakpoint?

Another notable thing about the tennis point system is the breakpoint.

A breakpoint occurs when a person receiving a service is a point away from winning the game.

Here is an example.

If you're the one serving and your opponent gets to 40 points before you, that's a breakpoint. Your opponent is one point away from winning the game.

There are about four possible breakpoints in tennis scoring rules, 0-40, 15-40, 30-40, and the last is when the persons serving does not have an advantage in a deuce game. Winning the breakpoint means winning the game. But it's not usually that easy. Your opponent is a point away from winning, and you have the serving advantage.

Note that it's not a breakpoint if your opponent has 40 points and is also the one serving. You only say it's a breakpoint if the player on a point away from winning is not the one serving.

Playing A Tiebreaker

Like you already know, the scoring system for tennis is full of different terms, and the last one we'll consider in this article is 'Tiebreaker.'

What is a Tiebreak?

Think of a tiebreak as a deuce. The difference, however, is that deuce occurs during point system while tiebreaker occurs during the tennis game set. Tiebreak occurs when the two players are held on six games all (6-all) in a set. It's more like a penalty in a football game. The winner is the first player to reach seven points by a margin of two points. Matches at this point could go on for hours. 

And like the tennis point rules, a player must have a two-point edge to win a tiebreak.

Let's make it simpler.

You're on tied with your opponent at six games each

You have to earn two-point consecutively to win the set. Example 8-6, 9-7, 11-9

Another example of a tiebreaker 7-5

If it gets to seven points to seven points or 7-7, that's another tiebreak.

And according to the tennis scoring rules, the player who receives at the beginning of the first tiebreak serves at the start of another if there is one


There you have it, tennis scoring explained and tennis point system simplified. Tennis is exciting but can be boring if you don't understand the nitty-gritty of the game. I do believe you now understand some tennis scoring terms and the rules.

For better understanding, you may need to watch more tennis matches, not only will it enhance your knowledge of the game, but it will also expose you to the thrills and fun of the game.

If you are a beginner tennis player, we have tennis racquet reviews for beginners if you are looking for a solid racquet. 

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