How does Tennis Scoring System Work?

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Tennis Scoring System Eplained

Welcome to the world of tennis scorekeeping. For those who may be new to the sport, the tennis scoring system can seem puzzling at the start.

It’s arguably one of the most unusual scoring systems out there. However, it can become quite simple once you understand how it works.

This article will act as a guide that will help you understand how does tennis score system work?

By the end, you will be able to talk like a seasoned tennis fan in no time 👍

Table of Contents

How does a Tennis Match Start?

So how does a tennis match begin? It starts like any other sport. Both sides have to decide who serves first.

👉 There are two ways to do this:

One option is the good old-fashioned coin toss. Another is the racket spin.

👉 Let’s look at this in a series of steps you can understand better:

  1. Step 1: Decide who spins the racket and who calls it. Doesn’t matter who. Anyone can do either. For this guide’s sake, let’s say you’re spinning, and the other player is calling.
  2. Step 2: Look at the end of the handle. It should have a letter or logo of the company that made it
  3. Step 3: Now, you have to spin the racket until the opponent says stop
  4. Step 4: Now, look at the bottom of the racket and see if the opponent called the shape or letter correctly or not.

NOTE: If the opponent calls it correctly, they decide if they want to serve first and what side they want to start on, and vice versa.

Tennis Scoring System History

Tennis terminology is odd. Why?

Where did this tennis scoring system come from?

Nobody is particularly clear on this, but the popular belief is that the point system dates back to the medieval French period.

As legend has it, clock faces were used on the set to keep score. The quarter hand of the clock was used to measure 15, 30, 45, etc.

When the hand moved to 60, the game was over.

Later, the deuce was invented to make sure a one-point difference doesn’t win the game.

Seeing as there were only clock faces to keep track of the score that had to stay within the 60 mark, they turned the 45 to 40 for convenience.

Hence, the modern point system of 0, 15, 30, 40.  That being said, when looking at the timelines in history, it can be noticed that medieval clocks weren’t this advanced.

Although this theory of tennis scoring system may sound very attractive, it’s doubtful that it’s true. Like all other scoring systems in the world, this one also remains a mystery.

Tennis Scoring System Terminology You Should Know

In tennis, each player gets one bounce of the ball in their side of the net before the ball is returned to the other end of the net.

REMEMBER: If the player fails to do that, they lose the point.

The goal is to win enough points to win a game and enough games to win a set.

👉 The following terminology is the most important pieces of vocabulary to keep in mind when playing tennis.

i. Point

Tennis point system is a bit difficult as compared to other games. Each point begins with a new game. Let’s look at the point breakdown and understand how this works:

  • Love = 0 points
  • 15 = 1 point
  • 30 = 2 points
  • 40 = 3 points
  • All = Tied score
  • Deuce = 40-40
  • Ad-In = Server wins deuce point
  • Ad-Out = Receiver wins deuce point


So, according to this point system, the question now is; who wins? Let’s look at what a game is to answer that question.

ii. Game

In tennis scoring system, players need to win at least four points to win a game.

You must also have a two-point advantage, or the game gets tied and goes to a deuce.

It goes to advantage when one of the players takes the lead by one point.

iii. Set

A player wins a set if they are the first to win six games with a two-game advantage (or more).

iv. Match

Each game is set up differently. Some games are 3 sets in total, and some are 5.

IMPORTANT: A player wins a match when they win the majority number of sets in a match.

v. All

You may have heard the word all countless times during a tennis match. That’s because it’s just another way of saying “both” in tennis scoring system.

So, when an umpire says “15 All”, they mean “15-15”.

👉 It is also used the same way for sets as well.

vi. Love

Now this one gets its name from an EGG. Oh, yes, 0 looks like an egg, and an egg is called “l’œuf” in the French language. And that’s why zero is called love in tennis.

👉 So, if the score is 15-0, the umpire will say 15-love.

vii. Deuce

A deuce comes into play when both players have scored 4 points each and are at 40-40.

At this point, a player needs to score two consecutive points in a row to get an advantage.

When the server wins the consecutive points, it’s called an Ad In, and when they lose the deuce point, it’s called Ad Out.

viii. First Serve

A point begins with a serve! A server gets two chances to score that point. The first try is usually where the player takes a risk and hits harder.

ix. Second Serve

Suppose the first serve goes out of the court. The player is given a chance to serve again. This one is very calculated and slower.

x. Let

If the first serve has hit the net but is still in the service box, it’s a lot.

This means that the player can now serve again without any penalties.

👉 A let is called only when there are distractions on the court, debris present, or another game’s ball enters the court.

xi. Deuce Side

When the server is on the right side of the court, it’s called the deuce side. It’s named that because the score can only be deuce on this side during a close game.

xii. Ad Side

This is the opposite side to the Deuce side, i.e. the left side of the court. If a player is to win a game on the Ad side, they need to score a point and lead.

xiii. Match Point

A matchpoint is called when you’re just a point away from winning a match.

xiv. Fault and Double Fault

A fault in tennis scoring system is called when the serve lands outside the tennis box. A double fault is called when this happens after the second serve.

The other player will receive a point if you’re at double fault.

xv. Ace

When a serve lands in the service box and the receiver misses it. It’s called an ace in the book tennis scoring system, and the server gets the point for this stroke of genius.

xvi. Types of Tennis Sets

The best way to explain how a match’s scoring works is to remember the sequence we’re about:

Point, Game, Set, and Match. If a player wins enough points, they win a game.

When they win enough games, they win a set. And, when they win enough sets, they win a tennis match.

So now, let’s dive a little deeper into sets. In tennis, there are alternating games in a set with service and return roles.

There are actually two types of sets, each with its own type of scoring:

a. Advantage Set

In this type of set, the player or team needs to win 6 games and have a 2-game lead over their opponent.

The set continues without a tiebreaker until one of the players wins by 2 games. This type of set is no longer played under the United States Tennis Association and Australian Open as of 2019. 

But, the French Open Fed Cup and Wimbledon still use this type of set for scoring, specifically for men’s and women’s singles.

b. Tie-break Set

A tiebreak set is almost the same as the advantage set. The difference comes into play when the score gets tied at 6-6.

When this happens, a tiebreak set is played. A tiebreak set is initiated by the player who was due to serve. This player serves a point on the deuce side of the court.

The other player serves the next two points on the ad side of the court.

Players switch sides on the court after every six points. An example would be a score of 4-2.

The first player to score seven points or have a two-point lead wins the tiebreaker.

👉 This set continues until one player or team wins seven points with a lead of two or more points.

Advantage Set VS Tie-break Set

Usually, advantage sets run longer than tiebreak sets. The longest tennis match in history was between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut during Wimbledon 2010. Isner won the fifth set by 70-68. The match lasted a total of 11 hours and five minutes, and even the poor scoreboard gave up. The fifth set went over 5 hours long, and it was an advantage set. Tiebreak sets can last very long, too, because when the score gets tied at 6-6. The players must play until one of them has a two-point advantage. 👉 Generally speaking, advantage sets run longer than tiebreak sets.

Tennis Scoring System in Grand Slam Matches and Set Types

At the beginning of 2019, the major tennis tournaments and associations updated their scoring systems for the final set to win a match. The current ones look like this:

  • Australian Open: Tiebreak at 6-6 with first to 10 points. Final set.
  • French Open Fed Cup: Advantage set with no tiebreak. Final set.
  • Wimbledon: Tiebreak at 12-12 with first to 7 points. Final set.
  • US Open: Tiebreak at 6-6 with first to 7 points. Final set.


To sum up the tennis scoring system, it is 0, 15, 30, 40.

  • A deuce is called at 40-40. If a player wins 2 points consecutively, the game is won.
  • Otherwise, it goes back to deuce.
  • A player must win enough points to win a game, enough games to win a set, and enough sets to win the match.
  • Two types of sets can be played depending on the score situation, i.e., advantage sets and tiebreaker sets.
  • We’re confident that we’ve now trained you well enough to win a tennis championship. Just kidding.
  • But, we still are confident that by now, you know a lot more about tennis than you did before reading this article. Now go out there, spin that racket and serve!