How Does Scoring Work In Tennis?

scoring in tennis

There are three main components to the scoring system in tennis. Before breaking down the point system, you should know that in tennis there are games, sets, and the match. The match is the proper term for the entire performance and is made up of sets. A game consists of points, and a set consists of games won.

The scoring system in tennis is the same for both singles and doubles play. The only difference in gameplay is the boundaries on the court. In singles play the alleys are out of bounds and in doubles play they are not. The player (singles) or team (doubles) who wins the most sets wins the match.


How do Games Work?

Point Tier

The point tier goes as follows: both players start at 0. After scoring one point, a player will now have 15. The next point won would bring the player to 30. Following that, another point won brings a player’s score to 40. If the player with 40 wins the next point (assuming that ther score is not tied at 40), they will win that game, and now lead the set 1-0.

When there is a tie, before the score of 40, it is referred to as “all.” For example, when both players have 30, you will say “30 all.”

Deuce

It is important to note that tennis games and matches are a win-by-two format. If both players have 40 points, we have what is called “deuce.” The next point won when in “deuce” gives that player the advantage, which, in short, means if they win the next point, they win the game. However, if the player that does not have the advantage wins the point, the game returns to “deuce.”

Advantage

The last terms you might hear often in regards to scoring are advantage-in and advantage out. Advantage in, or ad-in for short, is when the server scores the point during a deuce. Advantage out, or ad-out, is when the receiver scores the point during a deuce.

Though the standard scoring system includes the deuce and advantage scoring layout, there are times where that will be disregarded, and when the score is 40-40, the next point wins the game.

Scoring Example - players win without Deuce

  • 0 - 0 (Game starts with serve from Player 1)
  • 15 - 0 (Player 1 scores first point)
  • 30 - 0 (Player 1 scores second point)
  • 40 - 0 (Player 1 scores third point)
  • Game Over - Player 1 wins (Player 1 scores fourth point)

Scoring Example - players win with Deuce

  • 0 - 0 (Game Starts with Serve from Player 1)
  • 15 - 0 (Player 1 scores first point)
  • 15 - 15 (Player 2 scores first point)
  • 30 - 15 (Player 1 scores second point)
  • 30 - 30 (Player 2  scores second point)
  • 40 - 30 (Player 1 scores third point)
  • 40 - 40 (Player 2  scores third point)
  • DEUCE: At this point the game is tied. In order for a player or players to win, they must score another two points consecutively.
  • Ad-In (Player 1 scores fourth point)
  • 40-40 (Deuce again) - (Player 2 scores fourth point)
  • Ad-Out (Player 2 scores fifth point)
  • Game Over - Player 2 Wins (Player 2 scores sixth point)

Set Scoring

In order to win a set, a player must win six total games within the set. The first player to win six games wins the set. Sets must be decided by at least two games, similar to games needing to be decided by at least two points. If a set is tied at five games each, the winner must win two more consecutive games to win the set.

When a set gets to a score of 6 - 6 in games, then there is what is known as a “tiebreaker.” To win the tiebreaker, a player must have a score of at least seven points and also have two more points than their opponent. Tiebreaker scoring is sequential starting at one. So, for example, a player could win a tiebreaker with a score of 7-5, 8-6, 9-7, etc.

Match Scoring

Match scoring works as a best-of scoring system. Typically, a match has three sets, and the first player to win two of the three sets wins the Match. In professional men’s tennis majors, sets are best-of-five where the first player to win three sets wins the match.

How to Score Points In Singles

  • The player serving the ball serves it directly into the correct service court, and the opponent cannot return the serve. This is known as an ace.
  • The player serving the ball serves into the net or out of bounds on two consecutive attempts. The first attempt is known as a “fault” where no points are awarded, the second attempt is referred to as “double fault” and the opponent is awarded a point. 
  • After a serve has been put in play, if any player hits the ball into, the net the other player is awarded a point
  • After a serve has been put in play if any player hits the ball into the doubles alleys on either side of the court or behind the baseline the other player is awarded a point

How to Score Points In Doubles

The scoring in doubles play is the same except that the doubles alleys are in-play. This means that hitting the ball into the alleys does not result in the other team receiving a point, but rather continues play until another player hits the ball into the net or behind the baseline.

Game Strategy

Tennis matches can typically drag on for hours on end. The longest match in tennis history was played in 2010, and went over 11 hours and was played over the course of three days.

The strategy behind playing games, of course, varies from player to player and from grass courts to clay courts to hard courts. To win a game, you want to focus on your opponent’s weaknesses, and the best tennis players in the world are quite good at doing this and taking advantage of it. If a player can expose a weakness early in a tennis match, that match will typically fly by a little bit quicker, because the losing player is simply outmatched. The goal, in short, is to win, and win quickly.

Break Points and Games

Tennis players alternate serving from game to game. Serving is seen as a major advantage in tennis, so it is imperative that players win a game in which they have service. When a player who is receiving the serve has the opportunity to win a game on the next point, it is known as a break point.

When a player who is not serving wins the set, it is known as breaking the other player. Breaking a game gives a player a huge advantage towards winning the set. Since most games are won by the player who serves, winning even a single game in a set can lead to a set victory. Breaking the opponent can also help shift the momentum of the match.

FAQ

How many points does each side have in a tennis match if the score is a deuce?

If the score of a tennis match is “deuce,” this means each player has 40 points. Typically 40 points would mean a player can win the game on the next point, however this is not the case when both players are at 40. Instead, one of the two players must win each of the next two points in order to win the game.

What are the scores called in tennis?

The different scores in tennis are 0 (love), 15, 30, 40, and then game. Meanwhile, if a player is being shut out, their score is referred to as “love” in place of 0.

Are the alleys in play in singles tennis?

In singles tennis the alleys are not in play. If a player were to hit the ball into one of the alleys, their opponent would get a point. This is the root of the name “doubles alley.”