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How does tennis scoring work?

A primer on how points are scored in tennis, including sets, games and matches. Also explains what's shown on a tennis scoreboard.



Tennis scoring is different from most other sports and can be confusing for new spectators. But fear not, we're here to help!

The first thing to know is that a tennis match is composed of points, games, and sets.

A man on a tennis court about to serve the ball

Why do they say love in tennis?

Love represents zero. Here's a brief rundown of how all the points work:

  • A game is won by the first player to score four points.
  • The points from 1 to 4 have "calls" or names. They are
    • 0 points is called Love
    • 1 point is called 15
    • 2 points is called 30
    • 3 points is called 40
    • 4 points is called Game
  • If both players have won three points each, the score is referred to as deuce.
  • From deuce, the next player to win a point wins the advantage.
  • If the player with the advantage wins the next point, they win the game. If they lose the next point, the score goes back to deuce.
  • A set is won by the first player to win six games, with a difference of at least two games. If the score reaches 6-6, a tiebreak is played to determine the winner of the set.
  • A match is typically played as the best of three or five sets.

It's important to note that the rules of tennis can vary slightly between different tournaments, so it's always a good idea to check the specific rules for the tournament you're watching.

How are points won?

Points are won when a player is able to make a shot that their opponent cannot return. This can be due to a number of factors, such as a shot that is too fast, too difficult to reach, or too well-placed to be returned. Points can also be won when an opponent commits a fault, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, into the net, or failing to get the ball over the net.

Example scoring progression

Here's an example score progression for a tennis game:

  1. Player A serves first and wins the point with a strong forehand. The score is now 15-0 or 15-love in favor of Player A.
  2. Player B responds with a solid backhand, but Player A wins the next point with a well-placed drop shot. The score is now 30-love in favor of Player A.
  3. Player B fights back with a few aggressive shots and wins the next two points to level the score at 30-30.
  4. Player A takes the lead again with a powerful serve, and the score is now 40-30 in favor of Player A.
  5. Player B hits a high, deep return, and Player A nets their next shot, making the score 40-40, or "deuce".
  6. The next point is crucial, and Player A wins it with a beautiful backhand down the line. Player A now has the " advantage".
  7. Player B hits a weak return on the next point, and Player A wins the game with a strong forehand winner. The final score for the game is 6-4 in favor of Player A.
  8. Player A has now won his first set.

How does the scoring system work in doubles tennis?

In doubles tennis, the scoring system is similar to singles tennis with a few differences. The game starts with each team serving two points and then alternating serves for the rest of the match. Points are scored the same as in singles tennis, with the first team to reach four points winning the game.

A game of tennis doubles, seen from above

The main difference between singles and doubles tennis scoring is the concept of "no-ad" scoring, which means that there is no advantage score. In doubles tennis, if the score reaches deuce (3-3), the next point wins the game.

Another difference is the serving order. Each team alternates serving every two games, with each player on the team having a chance to serve. This means that, for example, if player A on the first team serves the first game, player B on the same team will serve the second game. Then, player A from the second team will serve the third game, and so on.

What information is displayed on a tennis scoreboard?

Roger Federer beside a tennis scoreboard in Wimbledon

A tennis scoreboard typically displays the following information:

  • The names of the players or teams playing the match.
  • Points: The score within the current game, such as 15-30.
  • Games: The number of games won by each player or team in the current set.
  • Total sets: The number of sets won by each player or team.
  • Previous sets. This is a more of a feature of professional scoreboards. This displays the score of the previous sets, such as 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. See the example from Wimbledon above.

Simple tennis scoreboards will just show the names, games and total sets. The points of the current set are not shown but will be called by the player or referee.

A simple wooden tennis scoreboard

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Do you have further questions or comments about tennis scoring? Let us know in the comments below!