Tennis scoring can be awfully confusing and frustrating if you aren’t familiar with the game. While it’s fun to watch the players volley the tennis ball, heaving grunts with every swing of their rackets, if we don’t understand the scoring system, or even what the boxes on the court mean, then we’re really not watching the competition. We’re just watching a fuzzy little ball travel back and forth across the court.
In order to understand the scoring, it’s important to understand the reasoning behind it. Unlike other sports, tennis never ends in a tie.
There are three components to a competition: Game, Set, and Match. In order to win a game, a player must win by at least four points. There are six games to a set, and two sets must be won in order to win the match.
A player needs a minimum of four points to win a game. “Points” are accumulated by winning “game points.” To win a game, a player must beat his opponent by at least two points.
Each player starts with “Love,” which means zero. Some theorists claim that “love” was derived from French term for egg (l’œuf) which looks like a zero.
One point is equal to 15 game points. Two points is equal to 30, and three is equal to 40. For example, one player has three points (or 40 game points) and the other has two points (or 30 game points.) What must happen in order to determine a winner? For the server to win, he has one chance to score. If he loses the serve, then the game is at 40-40, and play must continue until there is a two point advantage.
But why the odd scoring numbers? It’s hard to verify, but some historians say that a clock face was used on the court giving rise to the 15, 30, and 40.
When six games are played, it’s called a set. A player must win by at least two games in order to “close out the set.” When two of three sets are closed by the same player, he wins the match.
Once you get a handle on the definitions and meanings behind the scoring, it’s really not as complicated as it seems and will make watching and even playing the sport much more enjoyable.