A Helpful Guide to Tennis Scoring

November 02, 2020

For people in beginner tennis lessons or starting to watch the sport, scoring can be confusing. Instead of basic counting, tennis scoring uses seemingly random point values. Several theories exist as to why this is. Currently, most people believe it is a carryover from players moving closer to the net in an ancestral version. No matter the origins though, for an Abu Dhabi tennis player or fan, understanding the system is critical.

Points, games and sets are all scoring elements that make up a tennis match. The winner of a match wins the most sets, and it is usually in a “best of three” format.

Winning a set requires you to reach six games before your opponent does, but there is a little extra requirement. The set will only finish if your opponent has won 4 or fewer games. If the opponent has 5 games, the set continues. The player in the lead can win 7-5, or the trailing player can bring the score to 6-6, which triggers a tie-break situation. A tie break is played in points, and it uses an ordinal (1, 2, 3…) system of scoring. Players try to reach 7 points before their opponent with a margin of 2. Tie breaks have no limit to how many points are played, but whoever wins the tie break is awarded the set, and the final set score is recorded as 7-6.

Earning points in a game is not done as a simple counting system, however. On the tennis court, zero is called “love”. (This is possibly from the French word ‘œuf’ which means ‘egg’.) The first point scored on your opponent is 15, then the second point is 30. On the third point, your score jumps to 40. There are no points earned after 40 - you simply win the game.

To keep track of a game score, players report the score before each serve. The person who is serving will say their own score first, regardless if they are winning or losing the set. If there is a tie, they will use the term all to describe this – either 15-all (both players scored once) or 30-all (both players scored twice).

When each player has 40 points (3 scores), the term used is deuce.

When a set score is deuce, the margin of two comes into play again. A player must score twice in a row to win the game. The point after deuce is called advantage; on the next point the player holding advantage can win the game by scoring, but if the opponent takes the point, the score returns to deuce again.

While tennis scoring is usually standard, variations exist. Different tournaments or leagues may put in their own rules to suit the community they are programming for. As examples, young children use ordinal counting to count points, doubles commonly play to 10 games with a 2-game margin, and instead of 3 sets, Grand Slam tournaments play to best of 5.

Although it seems complicated, you can learn to enjoy tennis quickly when a tennis expert or fan helps you along. Community tennis players and awesome tennis coaches are all happy to help you on your tennis journey so that you can love it as much as they do.