How to Score Tennis: Everything You Need to Know

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Tennis is undoubtedly an incredible game to watch.

Thousands descend to the courts each year to watch the best players in the world duke it out in nail-bitingly close matches.

Despite its popularity, to the untrained eye, tennis may seem somewhat confusing, and almost comical with the seemingly random words being shouted by the umpire.

Throughout this article, we’ll explain exactly how tennis is scored, as well as go over some key terminology that will help solidify your understanding of this beautiful game.

Let’s dive right in.

Tennis Scoring Overview

To get things started, let’s go over the basic structure of a tennis game and how exactly you reach each of these in-game milestones.

There are three main terms to understand here:

  • Points
  • Games
  • Sets

Essentially, the aim is to: win 4 points to win a game. Win 6 games to win a set. Win 2 sets to win a match.

There are a few caveats to this that we’ll discuss in just a second, but that’s the basic scoring principle behind tennis.

What are Points in Tennis?

Points are used to determine who wins each game (don’t confuse this with a match). We’ll go over how a point is won later in the article.

Points in tennis aren’t referred to as “1,2,3 etc…”, instead they go up by 15 each time a point is won. The goal here is to earn 4 points to win the game.

Of course, there are no 0 points in tennis. Instead, we use the term love. Love in tennis means that a player has not yet scored a point in a game.

Number of Points Tennis Score
No points
1 point
2 points
3 points
4 points

Unfortunately, winning a game isn’t quite as simple as being the first player to win 4 points. To win a game, you must beat your opponent by two clear points.

But, I hear you ask, what happens if both players are on 40 (3 points).

This is where does the phrase deuce come in.

So, what is a deuce in tennis?

Deuce is the term used when both players are on 40 points in a game. To win that game, one player must win two points consecutively.

Instead of going 40, 55, 70, 85, etc, we instead use the term advantage.

If both players are on 40, and Player A wins a point, it’s their advantage. If they win the following point, they win the game. If they fail to win that point, the game returns to a deuce.

This continues back and forth until a winner for that game is established… then we do it all over again.

What are Games in Tennis?

To win a set, a player or team must win 6 games, often by two clear games (meaning they need to have on at least two more games than their opponents). There are a couple of different set types, which I will discuss in just a second.

However, just know that games are much like points. They must be accumulated to win a set, which in turn must be accumulated to win a match.

Typically, one side of the court will serve for the entirety of the game. The serve will then swap sides the next game. This pattern is repeated throughout the entirety of the match.

What are Sets in Tennis?

As I previously mentioned, there are two main types of sets in tennis:

Tiebreak sets: The goal here is to be the first player to win 6 games, by two clear games. If both players are on 5 games, then a player must win 2 games consecutively to win. If the match goes to 6-6, then a tie break game is played to determine the winner of that set.

Advantage sets: This is the simplest of the two. Simply put, a player or team must win the set by 2 clear games. There are no tie-break games played here, and the set will continue until a player has won with a 2-game advantage.

So, how many sets are in a game of tennis?

Typically, the match is played in a best of 3 or 5 set format. This is usually best of 3 for women, and best of 5 for men.

How is a Point Won in Tennis?

Ok, now that’s out of the way let’s take a look at how you win a point in tennis.

A point is won when your opponent:

  • Hits the ball out of bounds (outside of the baseline or side-lines).
  • Fails to return the ball.
  • Hits the ball into the net.
  • Double faults their serve.

Additional Questions you May Have

Below we’ve covered a few other tennis related terms you may want to get familiar with.

What is an Ace in Tennis?

An ace is when a serve is delivered in such a manner than the receiving player cannot not hit the ball, and therefore they win the point.

What is a Let in Tennis?

Let is used to describe a serve when the ball hits the net, but lands inside the service line. This does not constitute a fault.

What is a Double Fault?

When serving, a player has 2 tries to land their serve within the service line, on the opposite side to which they are standing. For example, if you are serving from your right (deuce side) base line, your serve must land in front of the left service line.

If you fail to do this, either by hitting the net or landing your shot out of bands, this constitutes as a double fault and your opponent will gain a point.

What is a Walkover in Tennis?

A walkover is a type of win given when your opponent is unable to compete. For example, you are due to compete at 2:30 pm, but your opponent injures their ankle warming up and cannot play, you will be awarded a walkover victory.  

Example Tennis Scorecards

The following are example scorecards from the Australian Open 2021.

Men’s Singles Final: Novak Djokovic Vs. Daniil Medvedev

Player Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
N. Djokovic
D. Medvedev

As you can see from the scorecard above, during the first set, Djokovic was required to win 7 games, in order to be two games clear of Medvedev. 

This is due to the fact that they were 5-5 in the first set. This meant that in order for Djokovic to win that set, he would need to win the next 2 games. Which, as you can see, he did. 

From there it was fairly smooth sailing for Djokovic, who would end up winning with 3 straight sets. 

Let’s take a look at another example. 

Women’s Singles Final: Jennifer Brady Vs. Naomi Osaka

Player Set 1 Set 2
J. Brady
N. Osaka

The first thing worth mentioning here is the total number of sets.

As this was a women’s match, it was the best of 3 sets. As you can see, Naiomi Osaka won her first 2 sets, meaning that there was no point in the game continuing. 

Osaka also won both sets by winning 6 games by two clear points.

All in all, a pretty clear and decisive victory for Osaka.

We’ve also got a full guide on how to read a tennis scoreboard that you can check out for some more information.

Final Thoughts

Ok, there we have it. Hopefully, now you’ve got a better understanding of how tennis is scored.

If you’ve got any questions whatsoever, please feel free to get in touch via the contact form below.

Thanks for stopping by.

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