Traditional Rules for Tennis Score Keeping


Tennis, a sport celebrated worldwide, combines physical prowess with mental acumen. It's a game that's easy to fall in love with but will leave many asking "how to keep score?". Let's demystify this system to help you enjoy the game even more, whether you're a player or a spectator.

The Basics of Score Keeping

Tennis scores don't follow the typical numeric progression you might expect. Here's a breakdown:

1. Points

The most basic unit of scoring in tennis is points. The sequence of points is as follows:

  • 0 points are called 'Love'.
  • The first point scored is 15.
  • The second point is 30.
  • The third point is 40.
  • Scoring a fourth point typically wins the game, unless the score is tied at 40 (called 'Deuce'), which leads to a special scenario.

    2. Deuce and Advantage

    • At Deuce (40-40), a player must win two consecutive points to win the game.
    • If a player wins the next point after Deuce, it's called having the 'Advantage'. If the serving team/individual has the Advantage, it's called 'Ad-in'. If the receiving team/individual has the Advantage, it's called 'Ad-out'If the same team/individual wins the next point, they win the game. However, if their opponent wins the next point, the score returns to Deuce.

      3. Games

      • A team/individual wins a game by winning four points with at least a two-point advantage over their opponent.

      4. Sets

      • Tennis matches are divided into sets. To win a set, a player must win at least six games with a minimum two-game advantage.
      • If the set reaches a 6-6 tie, a tie-break is played in most formats. The first player to reach 7 points with a two-point lead wins the tie-break and the set.

      5. Match

      • Men's matches are typically best-of-five sets, while women's matches are usually best-of-three sets. The player who wins the majority of the sets wins the match.

      Special Cases

      1. Tie-Breaks

      In tie-breaks, points are scored as single numbers. The first player to reach 7 points with a two-point lead wins the tie-break and the set. Players alternate service every point, and switch ends of the court after every 6 points (server rotation rules).

      2. Final Set Variations

      In some tournaments, the final set does not have a tie-break and continues until one player has a two-game lead. This can lead to very long matches.

      3. Alternative Scoring Formats

      Some tournaments, especially at junior or recreational levels, use alternative scoring methods like pro sets or match tie-breaks (a single tie-break played instead of a full third set). Click here to learn more about alternative scoring formats.


      Tennis scoring might seem convoluted at first, but it adds an exciting strategic layer to the game. The need for a two-point advantage to win games and sets creates intense battles and remarkable comebacks. Understanding these rules can enhance your appreciation of the game's depth and the players' skills. So, next time you're watching or playing tennis, you'll be well-equipped to follow along and enjoy the intricacies of this fascinating sport.

      Related Topics: 

      Exploring Alternative Scoring Formats in Tennis
      The Unique History of Tennis Score Keeping
      The History of Grand Slam Tennis,
      Rules for Server Rotation and Player Position

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