How to Read Tennis Scores


Tennis has a history that is centuries old, and it is a sport popular in many countries around the world. The four major tournaments of the tennis year, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open, are the most highly televised and famous of the tennis tournaments. While most of us are at least familiar with these major events, and perhaps some of the tennis superstars who have emerged as recognizable figures of popular sports culture, there are many who might not fully understand how to understand a tennis match's scores.

Things You'll Need

  • A televised tennis match Print results of a Tennis match (i.e. magazine, newspaper)

Tennis Score Basics

  • In its simplest distillation, tennis is divided into points, games, sets and matches, in that order. To win a game, a player must win four points. Scoring begins at zero, or "love," and the person serving has their score listed first. The first point won by a player is 15, the next is 30, the next is 40, and one more wins the game. Thus, the scoring of a game in progress could read 15-30, 30-15 or love-40.

  • If both players have scored three points in a game, the score is listed as "deuce" rather than 40-40. The next player to win a point scores an "advantage" and then must win one more point to win the game. If the "advantage" is not capitalized upon with one more winning point, the score reverts back to deuce.

  • A player must win six games, by a margin of at least two games, in order to win a set and then must win two sets out of three, or three out of four for men in a Grand Slam tournament, to win the match.

  • If both players have won six games in a set, then a tiebreak is played, which means that the first player to reach seven points, by a margin of at least two, wins the tiebreak. In other words, the score of a tiebreak could be 7-5, 8-6, 7-4, 12-10, 7-2, depending upon how long it takes the winning player to reach seven (or whichever number after 7) by two points. Thus, a set in which a tiebreak decided the outcome will always be scored as 7-6.

  • Occasionally, you will see a set score of 7-5. This means that both players won five games apiece, then one player won another, bringing the total to 6-5. However, because a set must be won by at least two games, they will play another game, and the resulting score could be a winning set for one player with a score of 7-5.

  • On television, or in print, tennis scores are usually presented in a grid. The last names of the players are listed, one atop the other. Then in a line, each player's score is listed. First, completed sets are listed, then the amount of games won in the most current uncompleted set, and finally, the immediate points being played in the current game (if televised) are on the bottom line of the grid.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best way to understand tennis scores is to watch live matches and listen to professional commentators; it can be difficult to grasp until you see it unfolding live.

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