Just like almost every professional sport in existence, tennis scoring begins at zero, but that is where the similarities end.
The origins of the tennis scoring system remain unknown, but it is believed that it dates back to the late 19th century when the first official set of rules was published by lawn tennis pioneer Walter Clopton Wingfield. But it was only until the early and mid-20th century that a standardized scoring system began to take shape.
Although there have been several changes in the tennis scoring system in the earlier years of its existence, the collective efforts by players and the relevant authorities helped the formation of the standard scoring system that we use in modern-day tennis.
In this article, we shall try to explain how the tennis scoring works on the ATP and WTA tours - which are the highest levels of professional tennis on the men's and women's sides. Think of a tennis match in four phases: Point, Game, Set, Match.
As in any sport, tennis matches begin to keep count from zero (which in tennis is called Love). A point is what players contest and aim to win in a rally. A point is initiated when a player serves the ball to the returner, and a point is won when there is an unsuccessful attempt to return the ball within the stipulated boundaries on the court by either player.
Points in tennis are usually scored in this format: 15, 30, 40, and then Game. When there is a tie at 40-all (40-40), it is called a deuce, which now means that the player who wins the next point will score an Advantage point (A), and the subsequent point by the same player would result in a Game.
If the same player fails to win that subsequent point, the score reverses back to Deuce. Points are denoted as; 0, 15, 30, 40, Deuce, A.
A player must win four points to win a game. Although that is the bare minimum, it is not entirely true, in the sense a player could lead 40-0, and still lose the game if the opponent wins all the subsequent points. So in hindsight, a player would need to be at least two points ahead of the opponent to win a game. A game is denoted by numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. So points make up games.
Games make up sets. A player must win a specific number of games to win a set in tennis. The first player to attain six games, and maintains a difference of at least two games on the opponent wins the set. In the event of a tie at 6-all (6-6), the two players will play a tiebreaker, usually the first to seven points (first to 10 points in the final set of a Grand Slam), and maintains a difference of two points.
Sets make up matches. By winning a specified number of sets, a player wins a match. The number of sets required to win a match varies based on the tournament and tour.
For the WTA, women contest best of three set matches across all levels of tournaments, while for the ATP, men contest best of three set matches in Tour-level tournaments, but play best of five sets matches at Grand Slam level tournaments (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open).