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The scoring system for tennis is unique, often appearing more complicated than most sports to those unfamiliar with the rules. The rules are fairly simple to grasp, however, and once understood, will allow you to fully enjoy the game.

The tennis scoring system consists of three levels: points, games and sets.

Winning a Point

The two main ways to win a point in tennis consist of:

  • Hitting a winner: where the ball lands in the court and the opponent can’t hit it back before it bounces twice
  • Forcing an error from the opponent: where their shot lands out or goes into the net.

The exception to the above id on the serve. If the server makes an error on their first serve, they are allowed a second serve before losing the point.

Winning a Game

At the start of the game, the score is 0-0 (known as love all).

When a player wins a point, they advance to 15 (making the score 15-0, or 15 love), then to 30 if they win another point and then to 40 for their third point in that game.


If the player wins a fourth point, they win the game. However, if the score reaches 40-40 (i.e. both players win 3 out of the first 6 points in the game), then the score is known as 'Deuce'.

In the case of a Deuce, whoever wins the next point goes 'advantage up' (also known as 'having the advantage', usually denoted by ‘ad’ on scoreboards).

If a player is advantage up and wins the next point, they win the game. If the player that is 'advantage down' wins the next point, then the score returns to Deuce. The process then repeats itself until someone wins two clear points to take the game.

For example:

The server wins the first two points of the game, so the score is 30-0 (the server’s points are always stated first, so in this case it would be 'thirty love'). The returner wins the next point, making the score 30-15. But then the server wins the next point (40-15), and the one after that, so the server wins the game. 

When the server wins a game it is known as a ‘hold’ of serve, and when the returner wins a game it is known as a ‘break’ of serve. Players take it in turns to serve for one game, so a player will serve for one game, return for the next, serve again for following game and so on.

Winning a Set

When a player wins a game, they go 1-0 up, and if they win the next one they go 2-0 up and so on.

A set is won when one player wins 6 games, with at least a two-game margin, e.g. with a score line of 6-4, 6-3 6-2, 6-1, or 6-0.

If the score reaches 5-5, then two more games are played. If one player wins both, then they win the set by a score of 7-5. If both players win one game each, making the score 6-6, then a tiebreak is played.


In a tiebreak, the first player to win 7 points wins the tiebreak and the set. Instead of 15, 30 and 40, a tiebreak uses the scoring convention 1, 2, 3, and so on. As with games in a set, there must be at least a two point margin. If the score reaches 6-6, then the first player to get two clear points (e.g. 8-6, 9-7, 13-11) wins the tiebreak.

In terms of serving, the first player serves for one point, then the other player serves for two points, then each player continues to serve for two points until the tiebreak is finished.

Grand Slams

In most tournaments, it is best of 3 sets, so the first player to win two sets wins the match. However, Grand Slam events such as Wimbledon play best of five sets in the Men’s Singles. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam where Men’s Doubles matches also play best of five sets, with all other events at The Championships being best of three sets.

In the final (or deciding) set, if the score reaches 6-6, a tiebreak to 10 is played to decide the match.

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