Sitting in the hot sun, you are attired in your Sunday best. No need to worry about the glare, though, because you have on a stylish sunhat that you bought just for this occasion. It matches everyone else’s around you, so you know you fit in with all the other well dressed spectators in your section. You are mentally mid back-pat when everyone in the stands starts clapping. You halt the self-congratulating and notice the play action has stopped. The two men with rackets are leaving the court to sit on the bench near the tall umbrella chair. You are confused; the match can’t be over already? Logically, that seemed too short.  Heck, you basically just sat down and, more importantly, your wine glass is still full.  You have no idea why everyone is clapping, but you join in to continue your facade…. secretly hoping no one picks up on the fact that under the sunhat, you have absolutely no idea what is going on.


We have all been there, myself included.


Tennis is so vastly different from all the other mainstream sports. Mainly, the scoring is what baffles people; it can be difficult to know exactly what is happening if it is your first time attending a tennis match. Once you learn the basics, trust me, you’ll be even more excited to attend your next match! Perhaps, you’ll even be the one to lead the clapping.


A tennis match is made up of points, games, and sets. Points wins games, games wins sets, and winning two sets (best of three) or three sets (best of five) wins the entire match.  Let’s break it down further…


A single game comprises of a series of points played with the same player serving the entire duration of that one game.  That game is won by the first player to earn four points first; but it must be by two or more points over their opponent.   Once a player reaches at least four points (and by two over their opponent) they have won that game.  At this point, a new game starts and the same guidelines will apply.


Right about now as you’re sweating in the hot sun—thankful of the sunhat decision—you have been wondering the same thing Tina Turner did. What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Reaching four points wins you the game, but you realize the point sequence cannot be counted with your fingertips.


It all starts with Love. In tennis, love equals zero. The first point scored is 15. Before each and every serve, the score is announced with the serving player’s score said first.  So, after the first point is scored, depending if the server was the one to score or not, it will either be “love – 15” or “15 – love.”  The next point is 30 followed by 40.  Once a player reaches 40, if they win the next point- they win that game.


There are two important things to note: if the score is ever tied, it will be announced with “all.”  For example, if both players have 15, it will be“15 – all”.  If both have 30, it will be “30 – all.”


The second thing to remember is that a player has to win by two points. If the score has reached “40 – all”, it is then called “deuce.”  At deuce, a player must win the next consecutive two points to win the game.  When a player wins a point after deuce, he or she is then said to have the “advantage.”  If the player who is serving has the advantage, it will be announced “advantage in” or “ad in” for short. If the server’s opponent has the advantage after deuce, the score will be stated as “advantage out” or “ad out.” Once a player has the advantage, they must win the next point to win the game.  If they don’t, it will divert back to deuce. Back at deuce, the process of winning the advantage begins again. This process can be short. Or it can be very long and drawn out, with alternating players taking turns winning then losing the advantage.  But once two consecutive points have been won by the same player, they have won the game. At this point, a new game will begin with the opposite player getting a chance to serve. It starts back at love.


The next step on the way to winning a match is to win sets.  The scoring described above makes up a single game.  A player will win a set once they have won six games by a margin of two or more.  If both players end up winning six games each in the set, the players will continue until a margin of two has been reached. Or, they may play a tie-break to decide the set. In tournaments, this is decided in advance.  Once a player has won a set, they proceed into the next set.  Again, they repeat the process of winning points to win games and becoming the first player to win six games (by two or more).  A player must win two sets (or three, if it is best out of five) to have won the match.


So now, the match has ended. The sunhat now rests on top of your handbag and not your head; it was actually hotter to keep it on.  An explanation of the scoring helped to not only understand the game, but thoroughly enjoy it as well. And, you were confident you were clapping in support of your favorite player.