Confused about the scoring system in tennis? This quick rundown will tell you all you need to know.

The scoring in tennis matches follows a fairly simple system. However, this can appear confusing at first to the absolute beginner. At the end of a tennis match when the final point has been won you will hear the umpire call ‘game, set and match’. This because the points won add up to games, and the games add up to make sets, and a number of sets won will constitute the match being won.

Points in tennis

  • Each point won is not counted as 1, 2, 3 as in other sports, but rather 15, 30, 40 and then game.
  • Originally this was fashioned after a clock, with point one being fifteen, point two being thirty, point three being forty-five, and point four being the end of the game. Over time however, forty-five was shortened to forty.
  • Love (as in ‘15-Love’) announced by the umpire means zero.

Winning a game

  • In a game, a player normally has to win four points.
  • If the scores becomes tied at 40-40, then ‘Deuce’ is called.
  • The player who wins the next point, then moves to ‘Advantage’.
  • If the same player wins the next point then that is the end of the game and ‘game’ is called by the umpire.
  • However, if the other person wins the next point, then the score returns to deuce.
  • This keeps going until someone wins two consecutive points from the position of deuce.

Winning a set

  • The first person to win six games wins a set, but this has to be by two clear games e.g.: six games to four (6-4) or seven games to five (7-5).
  • If the scores are tied at 6-6, then a ‘tie-break’ is usually called. This is scored in one’s (not 15, 30, 40), with the first to reach seven points (but by 2 clear points) winning the tie-break. e.g. 7-5 or 9-7 would constitute winning the set in question.

Winning a match

  • Matches are usually the best of three sets (i.e. first to win two sets) or the best of five sets (the first to win three sets).

A typical tennis scoreboard

A typical scoreboard for a three-set match could appear as follows:

  Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
Player A 6 6(5) 6
Player B 4 7(7) 1
  • This would mean Player A won the first set 6 games to 4.
  • Player B won the second set on a tie-break taking it 7 games to 6 (by winning 7 points to 5 in the actual tie-break).
  • Player A won the third set 6 games to 1.
  • Player A won the match by 2 sets to 1.