How to Keep Score in Tennis

How the Scoring System Works in Tennis

Tennis can be an interesting, fascinating, and intense sport that won't let you take your eyes off it, but for beginners, it can be a bit complicated to understand. In this article, we'll try our best to present the tennis rules and basics in the easiest way possible so that tomorrow you can go to the court with more confidence and most importantly - learn something vital about the sport.

How to Score in Tennis

The Basic Tennis Scoring

Every tennis match starts at 0-0 games and 0-0 sets. Depending on what tournament it is, the match may be played in 2/3 sets (most often) or 3/5 sets format (on Men's Grand Slams). Also, those 0's we have mentioned above are not pronounced "Zero" or "Nil" as in football. The correct pronunciation is "Love". Let's get into this interesting detail in tennis history.

What does "Love" mean in tennis and where does its name come from?

The word "love" has been used in tennis etymology for the first time in the late 1800s. The tennis history tells that the game was played first in France, and in French "love" looks like "l'œuf", which means "egg" in English. At the same time, when the sport was imported to England, tennis players decided not to change the original rule because they thought that in reality "an egg really looks like the number 0". And this is actually the interesting story of the insertion of "love" in the tennis scoring. 

Another theory of the usage of "love" in tennis is far sillier in our opinion, but there isn't any clear evidence which is the real one. It is believed that 200 or 300 years ago people liked tennis so much that it was a pleasure for them not so much to win, but just to participate in a tennis game. So, they were like playing this sport "for the LOVE of the game". At the end of the day, you can choose your own interpretation of the insertion of "love" in tennis.

What is Deuce in Tennis?

Now, let's get back to business. The match starts at 0-0 games and the points are counted like 15->30->40->Game, instead of 1->2->3->Game. Every player has to score 4 points in order to win the current game. However, there is an interesting scenario when things come down to 40:40 (or each one has won 3 points until that moment). This scenario is called "deuce". From then onwards, every competitor has to win 2 consecutive points to complete the game.

What is Advantage (AD) in Tennis?

The first point won after the deuce is called "advantage". If the player that won the first point wins also the second one, gets the whole game. If not, the scoring is back to "deuce" and the game isn't over until one of the sides wins two points in a row.

How many Games are in a Set in Tennis?

Now you might be asking yourself, "How many games does it take to win a set?". A player would need to secure 6 games with a 2-game lead in order to win a set (for example 6-4), but if the scoring in the current game is 6-6, the two players are entering probably the most interesting part of a tennis match, called "tiebreak".

How Many Sets Are in a Tennis Match?

We answered part of the question at the beginning of the article, but let's clarify. Most tennis matches are played in a 2/3 set format (best-of-three sets). The only tournaments in which this is not the case are the Мen's Grand Slams (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and US Open) where the format is 3/5 (best-of-five sets).

How do Tie-Breaks (Tiebreakers) work in Tennis?

For the football (soccer) fans, tiebreakers are like the penalty shootouts. The tiebreak is often the most intense and thrilling part of the tennis match. Here the scoring is more or less the same with only one difference: points are counted with their actual numbers (1->2->3->4->5->6->7-…), not as in games (15->30->40-). As you may have seen, the tiebreak is over when one of the sides wins 7 points.

However, if the score is 6-6, each player must win two consecutive points. An interesting fact is that in both Men's and Women's Grand Slams, if there is a tiebreaker in the last set, it is called a "Champions Tiebreak" and the first to 10 points (instead of 7) wins the match.

When Do Tennis Players Switch Sides? (Changeover)

Players switch sides after every odd game, as in the first, third, and fifth games, basically if a game is just finished and the total of games is an odd number then the players switch sides. When it comes to the typical tie-break, players switch sides every time the total of points played is a multiple of six (so six, twelve, eighteen, and so on).

When Do Tennis Players Sit Down?

During the changeover, players are allowed to sit down on their benches and take a 90-second break, except for the first changeover of each set. Right after the conclusion of a set, this time is extended to 3 minutes.


Tennis scoring might seem tough due to the complex terminology but it is the most fair and straightforward way of determining the winner of the match. Also, the deuce, advantage and tiebreak scenarios add an element of excitement and stress to the game making it even more interesting! So, don't think twice, watch a few matches and choose a favourite player, or grab a tennis racket and go to the nearest court. Actually – it's that simple…!