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Tennis Scoring Explained

Sayali Bedekar Patil Mar 6, 2020
If you are an avid fan of tennis and are interested to know its scoring system, this story is targeted specifically at you. If you are new to the game, it is very likely that its scoring has gotten you thoroughly confused. Despair not, this story will explain it to you.
Tennis rules and regulations regarding the scoring system are a tad complicated. Additionally, the terms are weird to say the least. Yet, we will attempt this article along the following lines. We shall first start with the scoring terms and then follow it up with the rules of scoring. In the end, the article will conclude with a note on tie breakers, just to explain the system a little better.

Scoring Terms

The game of tennis has some very inexplicable tennis scoring terms. For one thing, when the scorer exclaims, 'Love all, start!', she is not passing on a message to the world, but is simply stating the fact that both players are starting with zero points each. So, love means zero then, but what in the world are 15, 30, 40, game, and deuce?
A normal game of tennis is played in four points for a game. The first point earned is known as 15 to the winners name, the second point is 30 and the penultimate point is 40. After a 40, a win results in a 'game'. All points are called with the server's points being called first and the receivers points coming second.
In other words, when Roger Federer is serving against Rafael Nadal and the scoreboard reads as 40 - 30, you can decipher the message that Roger is on 40 and Nadal on 30. (You can also conclude that since Nadal has come so close to deuce on a Roger serve, they must be playing on clay!)
Deuce is used to refer to a state where both the players have won three points each (that is, it is 40 all). When there is a deuce, the players will be playing for two more points instead of one. The player winning the first point will have what is called an 'Advantage' and will go on to win a 'Game', if he wins another one consecutively.
If he fails to win the point after the advantage, the game score will revert to a deuce. The game score will continue with the deuces till any one of the players wins two consecutive points after it.

Scoring Rules

Both the above paragraphs were about a game, i.e., one whole point. By one whole point, I mean the 6-4, 4-6 kind of points and not the 40-30 that make up these points. After winning one game past a 40 (when there is no deuce) or after winning two consecutive games after a deuce, one gets to win a whole point.
The points (15, 30 and 40) make up a whole point and these whole points make up a set. A player can win the set; if he is the first of the two players to reach the figure of 6, with a difference of at least two between his and his opponent's scores. The game carries on after 6 if both the players are close and no two point difference is established.
This is so till the two point difference is established, i.e., if someone scores an 8-6 that player takes the set. If both players score a 6-6 or a 7-7 or so on, a tiebreaker is initiated, and its mechanics will be explained towards the end of the story.
In women's tennis, the entire match involves playing for 3 sets. The one taking two sets out of three is the eventual winner of the game. All games in men's tennis are played for a maximum of 5 sets. The player that wins three out of the five is the winner. This is basically the synopsis of the entire scoring system. Last but not the least, let us have a look at the all-important tiebreaker.

Tiebreak Mechanics

A deuce is nothing but a kind of tiebreaker in the smallest segment of the game. But what happens when both the players are going neck to neck and it is seemingly impossible to get the margin of two points to derive the eventual winner of the set? If both the players come to 6-6 or any such similar (tied) score, a tie breaker is invoked.
If a tie breaker is introduced at a 6-6 score, it is called a 'seven point tiebreaker' and it has the same scoring rule as a normal game. The player that wins at least seven points first with a difference of two between himself and that of his opponent, wins the set.
The player who has to sequentially serve the next set after a 6-6 is the server in a tiebreaker. This service is made from the deuce court and it is for one point. After this first serve, the serve alternates between the two players with both players getting two serves each, at one go, i.e. two consecutive points. The players switch court ends after every 6 points, in case the tiebreaker hasn't yielded any result till then.

An Alternate Scoring System

There is an alternate scoring system that needs to be explained. Sometimes matches are played with a 'no-ad' scoring system. The rest of the game has the same rules as the regular method but the only difference in scoring is when a deuce occurs. Using this method, if two players are at a deuce, the player who gets the next point is awarded the game.
The only reason given for the preference of this scoring system over the normal one is that this system supports speedy play and does not unnecessarily prolong the matches.
Anyway, I really hope that my story has really got your doubts explained. The only way to enjoy this beautiful game is to understand it first, its rules and regulations, its scoring systems and even its lingo. I am an absolute tennis lover, if you are too, do tell me if my explanation is any good.