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How to keep score in tennis

By Jim Brown

The server’s score is always given first. Points are love (0), 15 (the first point won by either player), 30 (the second point), 40 (the third point), and game (the fourth point). If the players are tied at 3 or more points during a game, the score is called deuce. After deuce, when the server moves ahead by 1 point, the score is ad in or advantage server. If the receiver scores a point, it’s ad out. A player must win 2 consecutive points after deuce to win that game. If not, the score goes back to deuce.

No-ad scoring was introduced to simplify the method of keeping score and to reduce the length of matches. In no-ad scoring, the first player to win 4 points wins the game. Points are 1, 2, 3, and game. When the score is tied at 3-3, the next point determines the game. At 3-3, the receiver chooses to receive the serve from either the right or left side.

It is much easier for casual fans and even for players to learn and remember a simple 1-2-3 system than the 15-30-40-deuce-ad method. Since no-ad scoring eliminates the requirement of having to win games by at least 2 points, the overall length of tennis matches can be reduced considerably. High school and college matches are usually played on unlighted courts after school and before dark. No-ad scoring allows matches to be completed during daylight. Also, tournaments with large numbers of players, a restricted amount of time, and limited court space frequently use this method of score-keeping.

The disadvantage of no-ad scoring is that the system penalizes the well-conditioned athlete. The player with good endurance can use longer games and sets to wear down an opponent. This doesn’t happen as much in no-ad scoring. Because no game will last more than seven points, it may be possible for a player who gets a good start to gain an edge that cannot be overcome in a short match.

Tiebreakers were incorporated into the scoring system mainly as a result of television. With traditional scoring, the length of matches is unpredictable. Sets have lasted for 30 and 40 games, making it more difficult to sell advertising time and to manage programming schedules. Tiebreak games were introduced so a 6-6 set could end quickly.

Tiebreakers are scored as follows: In a 12-point tiebreaker, the player or team who wins 7 points, and is ahead by at least 2 points, wins the game and the set. The score is called out as 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, throughout the game. A final tiebreak score might be 7-0, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, 7-5, 8-6, 9-7, and so forth.

The player whose turn it is to serve serves the first point from the right court. The opponent is the server for the second and third points. After the third point, each player serves alternately for 2 consecutive points until the winner of the game and set has been decided. The second server serves the second and third points from the left and right courts, respectively, and this alternating-serve system continues until the tiebreak game is completed. Figure 6 shows the rotation of servers and their positions.

Players change ends of the court after every 6 points and at the end of the tiebreaker, but no rest period occurs during the tiebreaker itself. The player or team who served first in the tiebreak game receives the serve in the first game of the next set.

This is an excerpt from Tennis: Steps to Success.

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