Usually when someone picks up tennis as a new hobby/sport, they get frustrated with the scoring, understandably so. There are so many different terms, and ways to score, that it seems impossible. In this post, I’ll try to break it down as simply as possible so you can get a basic understanding!
Firstly, lets talk about a match. The match is the whole entire competition. When you go out to play competitive tennis, you are going to play a match. In every match, there are sets. A set is compiled of games. Each game has multiple points in it. To win a set, you have to win 6 games, and you have to win by two games. The scoring in a game is a little more difficult because it is not scored as “1, 2, 3, 4, Game” Games are scored as “LOVE (0), 15, 30, 40, Game.” The server always announces their score first, and the serve always begins on the Deuce (right) side of the court. After the first point, it is either LOVE-15 (0-15), or 15- LOVE(15-0), depending on who won the point. The second point is played on the Ad (Left) side. This continues until the game is completed. If the score gets to 40-40, this is called Deuce. Either player has to win the next two points in a row to win the game. If the server wins the Deuce point, the score is announced AD IN. If the returner wins the Deuce point, the score is announced AD OUT. For example, if the sever wins the Deuce point, but loses the Ad point, the score goes back to Deuce. This can happen many times. Another thing to remember, players switch ends of the court every odd game (after the first game, then every two games). You have a 90 second break starting with the change of sides at the third game. This is also when you change the set score on your score cards.
After many games are played, you may find yourself at a set score of 6-5. At this point, even though you have gotten 6 games, you have not won the set because you have not won by two games. So you will either have to win one more game to make the set score 7-5, or the score will go to 6-6, and a set tie-breaker must be played. In a tie-breaker, the first server serves one point from the Deuce side. After that point, the opposite server serves the next two points starting on the Ad side, then Deuce This two-point serving pattern continues until someone wins the tie-breaker. The tie-breaker is scored in intervals of 1 (1, 2, 3… so on) until someone reaches 7 points (again by two). In USTA play, players switch ends after the first point, then after every four points (or the score will show every five points when both scores are added together). In all other competitive play other than USTA, players switch ends every 6 points.
A match is always best two sets out of three (unless you are a man playing in one of the grand slams). If you are playing USTA, the third set is replaced with a match tie-breaker. Don’t freak out! It is played exactly the same way as a set tie-breaker, only the score goes to 10 points (by two of course) because it is played in place of a set. When you are playing in tournaments, the director has the choice of whether you will play a full set, or a match tie-breaker.
If you feel like I have completely melted you brain at this point, do not feel bad, it is a lot of information. After reading this, it is good to grab a friend who knows how to play, go out, and walk through the scoring point by point. Sometimes it is easier to learn by actually playing the points out. I have also attached a great video that explains step by step how to score!