Tennis is a sport where “love” means zero, and the scoring system is different for games, sets and matches. We get it: that’s confusing. Thanks to the USTA Officiating department, it doesn’t have to be.
This handy guide will teach you the basics of scoring, and playing the sport for a lifetime, with helpful tips and buzzwords that you may want to know before you take to the court. Mastering the proper terminology may not help your forehand or serve, but at least in conversation, you can hang with anyone.
Tennis is a game played on a rectangular-shaped court, which can be one of many surfaces. It is either played with two players (singles match), or four players (doubles match). Players stand on opposite sides of the net and use a stringed racquet to hit the ball back and forth to each other.
Each player or team has a maximum of one bounce after the ball has been hit by their opponent to return the ball over the net and within the boundaries of the court. In wheelchair tennis, players get a maximum of two bounces. When a player then fails to return the ball into the correct court, the opponent wins a point.
The aim of tennis is to win enough points to win a game, enough games to win a set, and enough sets to win a match.
STARTING THE MATCH
Before warming up with your opponent, either player or team will spin their racquet and the winner of the spin will have some options to choose from. They can choose one of these 3 options:
- To serve or receive
- The side of the court
- Or defer their choice to their opponent –but the opponent cannot defer back
Once the winner of the toss chooses one of the options above, the opponent has the remaining choice.
Tennis has a different point system than most sports. Before we go into detail, here is your guide to scoring a game:
- 0 points= Love
- 1 point = 15
- 2 points= 30
- 3 points= 40
- Tied score= All
- 40-40 = Deuce
- Server wins deuce point = Ad-In
- Receiver wins deuce point = Ad-Out
In order to win the game, a player must win at least four points. If you are up 40-30, 40-15 or 40-love, and win one more point, you win the game. If the score is tied in a game or set, you use the term “all” when announcing the score. For example, if you and your opponent have both won two points in the game, the score would be 30-all.
WHAT IS A DEUCE?
The only time this is different is when both you and your opponent have won 4 points each and the score is 40-40. This is called deuce. When the score reaches deuce, one player or team will need to win at least two points in a row to win the game. When the server wins the deuce point, it is called Ad-In, but when they lose the deuce point, it is called Ad-Out. If the team with the advantage (Ad-In or Ad-Out) wins another point, they win the game, or it goes back to deuce.
Players or teams switch ends of the court on odd games. This means that after the first game is complete, they switch sides, as well as every two games after that.