Why Is Tennis Scored 15-30-40? [Fascinating Tennis History]

Tennis is a sport recognized for its intricate rules and unique scoring system.

When a novice spectator hears “Love, 15, 30, 40” for the first time, it can be confusing.

Why not 1-2-3? Or keep the increments the same (15-30-45)?

The fascinating scoring system used in tennis dates back hundreds of years and is steeped in history and tradition.

In this article, we look into the reasons why tennis is scored the way it is, the origin of this unique scoring system, and the meaning of terms like ‘Love’ and ‘Deuce’.

The short answer for why tennis is scored 15-30-40?

It’s believed tennis was initially scored based on the face of a clock where the first to four points usually wins the game (15-30-45-game point).

Verbally pronouncing 40 (quarante in French, as the game originated in France) was simply easier than pronouncing 45 (quarante-cinq), so it changed from 15-30-45 to 15-30-40.

Let’s look in a little more detail.

Tennis Scoring Explained

Tennis uses a point-based scoring system, unlike sports such as football or basketball where each successful action earns a set amount of points.

In tennis, points increase from Love (zero), to 15, then 30, then 40, and the next point usually wins the game.

The scoring then proceeds from games to sets, and then to the match itself, which determines the winner.

What is the First Point in a Tennis Score

The first point in a tennis score is referred to as ’15’.

That means when a player wins the first point of a game, their score is 15.

The opponent’s score is referred to as ‘Love’, which essentially means zero in tennis lingo.

Why is Tennis Scored 15-30-40

The origin of the unique 15, 30, 40 scoring system in tennis is somewhat shrouded in mystery and speculation.

One theory suggests that it is based on the face of a clock.

A quarter hour, or 15 minutes, marks the first point. The second point, or half an hour, is 30 minutes.

However, instead of the third point being 45 (three-quarters of an hour), it is 40.

Why Does Tennis Go to 40 Not 45

There is no definitive reason why tennis scoring goes from 30 to 40 instead of 45, adding another level of intrigue to the tennis scoring system.

Some theories suggest that the original scoring system did indeed use 45, but was later simplified to 40 to facilitate quicker, more straightforward announcements during games.

Another theory is that in French, which had a strong influence on the game, 45 is pronounced as ‘quarante-cinq’, which is lengthier than ‘quarante’, the French term for 40.

This might have led to the simplification for easier and faster communication during matches.

Tennis Scoring System Origin

Tennis, as we know it today, has its roots in the royal courts of France in the 12th century.

The unique scoring system of tennis is believed to have originated from this era.

It’s speculated that the French used the face of a clock to keep score.

The hand moved a quarter way around to indicate a score of 15, then half way around for 30, and three-quarters of the way around for 45.

Over time, this 45 was possibly simplified to 40 for reasons explained above.

What Term is Used in Tennis for 40-40

In tennis, when both players have scored three points, and the score is 40-40, it is known as ‘Deuce’.

From this point, the game requires that a player must win by two points.

So, after ‘Deuce’, if a player scores, it is not immediately game over.

If the same player scores again, they win the game.

However, if the other player scores, it reverts back to ‘Deuce’.

Origin of Deuce in Tennis

The term “deuce” in tennis originated from the French word “à deux,” meaning “to two.”

It was used to denote a tied score of 40-40, requiring two consecutive points to win the game.

Over time, “à deux” transformed into “deuce,” the commonly used term in tennis today.

Why is Tennis Score ‘Love’ 15-30-40

The term ‘Love’ in tennis denotes a score of zero or nothing.

The most prevalent theory about the origin of ‘Love’ to mean zero suggests that it comes from the French word for egg, ‘L’oeuf’, because an egg resembles the shape of zero.

This term was possibly Anglicized to ‘Love’.

Conclusion

Tennis’ unique scoring system can seem bewildering to the uninitiated, but once understood, it adds a level of complexity and tradition that is a big part of the sport’s charm.

The scoring system of 15, 30, 40 and terms like ‘Love’ and ‘Deuce’ are not just idiosyncrasies; they reflect the rich and enduring heritage of this exciting sport.