Tuesday Two Cents

September 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Strange Love: Tennis Scoring Explained

I was asked recently to explain what the scores meant in tennis. Huh? The only answer I knew for sure was that the “Love” term may have come from the term “L’oeuf” (meaning ‘egg’ in french) which resembles the calligraphic “0,” and is the name of a fabulous tennis apparel line “L’oeuf Poche” carried on Swing Set Tennis!

Love isn’t the only strange thing about tennis scoring. The first point won is called 15, the second point is 30, the third point is 40 and the fourth point is “game.” C’est étrange, non?

First, I should explain (in case you don’t play) that a player has to score four points and win by at least two points, and if each player wins four points in the game,  the score is 40-40, which is called “deuce.” At deuce, the point system takes another interesting turn to the advantage system. The next player to score a point is said to have “advantage.” If that player then scores the next point, the game is won. If the other player scores, it goes back to deuce. This cycle will repeat until someone wins two points in a row to win the game.

As for that ‘système de notation étrange;’ some believe that this unique tennis scoring terminology came from medieval France, where clocks may have been used to keep score. Since four points are needed to win a game, a clock hand could be turned a quarter move, to 15, 30, 45 and 60 (back to 0), to keep track of the score. To allow for the special circumstances of deuce and advantage, the speculation is that 45 was changed to 40, so that advantage could be marked by 50. If a game was won on the next point, the clock would be turned to 60 (back to 0) to signal the end of a game. If not, it could be turned back to 40 to signal a return to deuce.

Et là vous l’avez, tennis scoring explained!


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