What Does Love Mean in Tennis?

Tennis Expert Jared Worth answers some of the most common questions about the game and the scoring system that might come up for a beginner.

Two women play doubles on one side of the green tennis court.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

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Starting to get into tennis but have no idea how to read the score or how many games to play? Here on Curated, I've introduced beginner players to the game and helped them find their perfect gear. Below are some of the most common questions you might run into as a novice player. And if you're on the hunt for the right equipment for your needs, reach out to me or another Tennis expert here on Curated for free advice and recommendations.

What does love mean in tennis?

In tennis, love is simply a stand-in for the number zero. Whether it’s zero points, games, or sets, love is the term players use to represent zero.

What does winning a set to love mean?

Winning a set to love (sometimes referred to as a bagel) means winning a set while holding an opponent to zero games, making the score 6-0 for that set.

What is the term for when a tennis game is tied at 40-40?

Any time a game reaches a 40-40 score, the term deuce is used. The term originates from the French phrase “deux de jeux”, which translates as two games, but in this context means two points (the number of points a player needs to be ahead by to win from deuce).

How many games are in a set of tennis?

In a set of tennis, a player needs to reach six games in order to win, with a few caveats. They need to win by at least two games (so a score of 6-5 wouldn’t win a set), and in most scenarios, if the score reaches 6-6, a tiebreak is played to determine the winner of the set. In some cases, there is no tiebreak and the set will continue to be played until either of the players pulls ahead by two games.

How many sets do tennis players play?

The large majority of tennis matches are best two-of-three sets, so the first player to win two sets wins the match. However, in Men’s Grand Slam tournaments like the U.S. Open, for example, players will play a best three-out-of-five set match, requiring players to win three sets rather than two.

How to keep score in tennis

Within each game, scoring goes 0 (love) - 15 - 30 - 40, representing zero, one, two, and three points won respectively. Once a player has won their fourth point, they win the game, but they must win by a margin of two points. So, if a 40-40 deuce is reached, players will play until one of them has gone up by two points. Players need to win six games (with the same caveat of being ahead by two or more) to win a set, and the first to two sets wins the match. Tiebreaks are often played if the score reaches 6-6, and the scoring for a tiebreak is simply first to seven points, winning by two.

An image of a tennis scorecard on the court with someone playing in the background.

Image by Mat Brown

How to read a tennis scoreboard

A tennis scoreboard can vary in style but typically follow the same few rules. On television, a player’s scores will appear directly next to their name, with the game scores of each set reading from left to right, and the current game’s score being listed at either the far left or far right of the set scores, depending on the broadcaster.

What are the dimensions of a tennis court?

A regulation tennis court is 78 feet long by 36 feet wide including the doubles alleys. For singles players, only the inner 27 feet of the court is considered in-bounds. The service boxes are 21 feet by 13.5 feet, and the net is 3 feet tall.

How long does a set last in tennis?

The average set of tennis will last from 30-45 minutes but could go on as long as an hour or more depending on the score.

How long is a tennis match?

An average three-set tennis match will last anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours, and a five-set match will last closer to two and a half to three hours. However, given the nature of scoring in tennis, matches can last indefinitely, and some can (very rarely) go for eight hours or more!

While the scoring system in tennis may be confusing, shopping for tennis gear should never be. Our experts here on Curated are the perfect resource to take the confusion out of shopping for a new racquet, shoes, etc, so you can focus your energy on improving your game.

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Written By
Jared Worth
Jared Worth
Tennis Expert
I started playing tennis when I was just 8 years old. I fell in love with it after watching a U.S. Open match, Federer VS. Roddick back in 2007. Since then I've played nearly every week at least once a week, including 4 years on my high school team and intermittently throughout college. Tennis is a...
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