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How Does Tennis Scoring Work?

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If you’ve watched tennis and can’t understand what’s happening in the middle, all the shots going back and forth, you’re not alone. The tennis scoring system can be complicated if you’re not a seasoned tennis fan. 

From the language used by the umpires to how the points are won, it’s one of the most unique systems in sport. In this guide, we break down how tennis scoring works.

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The Format of a Tennis Match

Tennis is structured in a multilayered way. It consists of points, sets, games, and matches. Let’s explain.

  • A point is one game.
  • A game is composed of several points.
  • A set is made up of several games
  • A match is made up of multiple sets.

We explain each of these factors below.

Points

Each player on either side of the court can score a point. That happens when:

  • A double fault happens. This is when a player fails to make two serves in a row successfully. 
  • A shot goes out of the playing area. 
  • A shot fails to go over the net. 
  • When a serve lands within the scoring area of the opponent, and the opponent misses the ball. 
  • A ball bounces twice in the opposition’s court.

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Set

Tennis is played in multiple sets. Usually, players play the best of three sets. That said, the Grand Slams operate differently. Women play the best of three, while men play the best of five. 

In a women’s game, the player who wins the first two sets wins the match. If each player wins a set, the game goes into a tiebreak. Whoever wins the tiebreak wins the match. 

In the men’s game, the player who wins three sets wins. If they each win an equal number of sets, the game goes into a fifth-set tiebreaker. Whoever wins the tiebreak wins the game. 

Games

To win a set, a tennis player has to win six games with a two-game margin. For example, if a player has six games and the opponent 4, they win the set. If a player has six games and an opponent 5, the player with six games must win one more game to win the set 7-5.

Should both players win six sets each, they go into a tiebreak. The player who reaches maximum points of seven with a two-game margin wins the set. 

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Match

A match is won when a player wins two sets in a best-of-three tennis match. For example, you’ll see results like 7-5, 6-4. 

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Deuce

A deuce in tennis is when both players get to 40. This usually happens when they each take a game, for example, 15-15 (15-all), 30-30 (30-all), and 40-40 (deuce and not 40-all). To win the game, a player has to score two consecutive points. 

If players score the first point at deuce, they have an advantage. If they fail to score the other point and the opponent scores it, they return to deuce. 

Tennis Scoring System Theory

You might ask why the points in the games are 15, 30, and 40. While there might not be a definitive answer, different theories emerged.

The score followed the clock face where the hand rested on 15, 30, and 45 but turned back to 40 to signal an advantage. The game normally ended at the 60-minute mark. 

The numbers are also attributed to the game jeu de paume, played with the hands. The score took a similar shape of 15, 30 and 45. 

The word love is attributed to the French phrase “l’oeuf,” an egg. Love is a zero points score. For example, you’ll hear the umpire say “love 15” when the score reads (0-15).

Watching a couple of tennis games will help you to understand how the tennis scoring system works. After reading this guide, find a couple of games, and we bet that with no time, you’ll become one of the tennis aficionados. 

You might even consider playing tennis. If so, you can get some equipment on Amazon.

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