UTR Sports explains how tennis scoring works

Tennis Scoring: Sets, Games, Points, Love | How Tennis Scoring Works | Tennis Rules

What’s up with tennis scoring? Seriously.

Tennis scoring goes 15-30-40-deuce, advantage-in, deuce!? Sets to six games but you have to win by two, unless you get to six, when you play a tie-break!?

So how does tennis scoring work, and why does tennis scoring go 15-30-40? As other people have asked, why is tennis scoring so weird?

With this helpful overview from UTR Sports all about tennis scoring, you’ll never have to wonder those questions again.

Tennis scoring explained: the basics of the tennis scoring system

Tennis court dimensions

Before we start, let’s talk about the tennis court dimensions. Tennis is played on a 78-foot (23.78 meters) court. Singles matches are played without the doubles alleys, so that’s 27 feet wide.

When doubles matches are contested, four people are on the court, and the court expands a bit to include the doubles alleys, so it’s 36 feet wide. On every court, the service line, the back line in the box where serves have to land, is 21 feet from the net.

Tennis court dimensions laid out

Now for the net. Every net should be three feet, six inches at the ends, also known as the posts, and three feet high (.91 meters) at the center.

Therefore, it’s always easier to hit the ball over the middle part of the net. Now that we know the dimensions and the true basics, let’s start playing tennis.

Tennis scoring explained: tennis game scoring

Tennis starts with points, which lead to games, which lead to sets, which lead to matches. Hence the term, game, set, match.

The start of the game, set, match

With one person serving and trying to serve the ball in the diagonal service box over the net, the game score is 0-0, or love-all.

If the server or serving team wins that point, it’s 15-0, or 15-love. If the opposing team or player wins, it’s 0-15, or love-15.

WATCH: Learn how to keep score in a game of tennis

The server always says their score first. To win a game, you have to win at least four points, and you have to win by two points.

Unlike other sports, such as volleyball years ago or pickleball in some places now in tennis, you don’t have to be serving to win a point.

Tennis scoring: points in games

To start: Love-all, or 0-0

One point: 15

Two points: 30

Three points: 40

Four points: Game

Tied at 40-40: deuce

Score after deuce if the server wins the deuce point: advantage-in

Score after deuce if the receiver wins the deuce point, advantage-out

You might hear someone say, 30-all, instead of 30-30. All, in this context, means everyone has the same score, i.e. you’re tied.

Why is tennis scoring so weird?

It's a good question: Why is tennis scoring is so weird? Why not have games start with one point, then two points, rather than 15, then 30?

No one knows for sure, and the internet has plenty of potential reasons. One popular theory is that the scoring was devised while using a clock, and that the three-syllable score of 45 eventually became too burdensome to say, hence the 40.

We could write pages on this topic, as others have here and here, but let’s talk about sets.

Tennis Scoring: Sets

Congrats! You’ve won a game of tennis. Only five more to go, at least, and then you’ve won a set.

Each set is played until at least six games, and, just like with points in games, you have to win by two in sets. For instance, you can’t win a set 6-5. You have to win 6-4 or 7-5, or 6-0, 6-1, and so on.

During sets, you change sides with your opponent after every odd game. So after the first, third, fifth, seventh, etc., games.

This helps even out the match, so one player isn’t playing with the wind at his or her back the entire match, or so one player isn’t serving with the sun in his or her face all afternoon as well.

Tennis Scoring: Set Tie-breaks

Tie-breaks come into play when both players or both doubles teams have won six games in the same set. Then you play a tie-break to seven points and, yes, you have to win by two.

Tie-breaks can go on forever, or until one team or player wins by two. The longest tie-break in ATP Tour history came in 2022, when American Reilly Opelka outlasted countryman John Isner in a 46-point tie-break (24-22).

The longest set tie-break in WTA history came in the last millennium, at the 1999 Madrid Open. Emmanuelle Gagliardi beat Tara Snyder 6–7(19–21), 6–1, 6–1 in the second round. The 40-point first-set tie-break remains the longest set tie-break in WTA history.

In a tie-break, the first team or player serves once from the deuce side, and then each team or player serves twice until the tie-break ends.

Tennis scoring: How many sets to win a match?

In recreational tennis, matches are typically best of three sets, or commonly known as best of three.

Often, including in UTR Sports Tennis Flex Leagues, in lieu of a third set, a 10-point match tie-break will be contested. In that match tie-break, the player has to win by two, and you change sides after every six points.

Tennis players playing tennis after upgrading to Power and saving money one events with UTR Sports

On the ATP Tour, the men’s professional tennis tour, where Novak Djokovic has won dozens of singles titles, singles matches are best of three sets.

On the WTA Tour, the women’s professional tennis tour, where Coco Gauff competes, singles matches are also best of three sets.

At the four major championships, also known as the Grand Slams – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open – women’s singles matches are best of three sets, and men’s singles matches are best of five sets, like the classic 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Tennis scoring: How many sets to win a match?

In 2022, the four major championships agreed that if a men’s or women’s match reached the score of 6-6 in the final set, the match would end with a 10-point match tie-break.

Earlier this year, Anna Blinkova won the longest tie-break – set or match – in Grand Slam history, when she beat 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(20) in the second round.

That 42-point tie-break surpassed the previous record, a 38-point match tie-break recorded at 2023 Wimbledon between Lesia Tsurenko and Ana Bogdan and a 38-point set tie-break played at the 2007 Australian Open between Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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Tennis scoring: Read and watch more below

USTA explains tennis scoring

Wikipedia: Tennis scoring system

Wilson: How to keep score in tennis

Sporting News: Tennis scoring, explained: A guide to understanding the rules, tiebreakers, terms & points system

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