Ad & Advantage In Tennis

Tennis is a confusing game for new players and curious spectators alike. Unlike in soccer or basketball, there are no simple 2-1 or 120-105 games. The sport of tennis is played over points, games, and sets.

A 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 tennis score is harder to get used to. Throughout matches, you will hear another peculiar term from umpires and commentators ― “Advantage.”

What is Ad in tennis? Ad is an abbreviation of advantage, and both refer to the same thing. When a game is tied at deuce, the next player to win a point has the advantage in that game. If that player wins the next point, they also win the game. Losing it restores the game to deuce.

How Do You Get to Advantage?

Every advantage is preceded by a deuce score, also known as 40-40. To get to deuce, both players need to have won 3 points each in the game. This can happen in many different ways.

Once the server gets to 40 in the game, the score can be 40-0, 40-15, or 40-30. In each instance, the server is said to have a game point because one more point will win them the game.

The receiver can establish a lead in the game and reach 40 like so: 0-40, 15-40, or 30-40. When this happens, the receiving player possesses one or more break points since winning the next point secures a break of serve.

If all break or game points are saved, the game will go to 40-40 or deuce. From here, one point alone isn’t enough to end the game. Whichever player wins the point after deuce has the advantage in the game. If the server has the advantage, then they also have a single game point, just like at 40-30.

If the receiver claims the first point, they have the advantage and therefore one break point equivalent to 30-40. In both cases, two points in a row are needed from deuce to earn the game. Otherwise, the game will revert to deuce and continue.

Examples During Play

Here is a table showing how the scores and points won could vary during a game:

Point Number Umpire’s Call Player 1 (Server) Player 2 (Receiver) Notes
1 “Fifteen love” 15 0 The first point of the game is won on serve.
2 “Fifteen all” 15 15  
3 “Thirty fifteen” 30 15  
4 “Thirty all” 30 30  
5 “Thirty forty” 30 40 Player 2 earns a break point.
6 “Deuce” 40 40 Player 1 saves the break point to force deuce.
7 “Advantage Player 1” AD 40 Advantage and game point player 1.
8 “Game Player 1” 0 (+ 1 game) 0 Player 1 wins the game.

As you can see, deuce was reached in this game after the players completed 6 points in total ― this is always true, regardless of the combination. Player 1 had to win a second point after achieving the advantage to close out the game.

Notice that, while the umpire will announce who has the advantage, they will never say that a competitor has a break or game point.

The Deuce & Ad Court

You might wonder how professional tennis players automatically know which side of the court to stand on before the next point. The answer is by remembering the deuce and ad court positions.

The deuce court is the side of the court that a player stands on when the game is tied at deuce. This is the right-hand side for the player looking toward the net. Hence players in the deuce court stand in a left-to-right “\” formation.

Competitors also stand on this side of the court when an even number of points have been played in the game. This includes the 0-0 score, so naturally, both players start every game and match in the deuce court.

Conversely, the ad court (short for advantage court) is the left side of a tennis court for a player looking towards the net. Players must stand here prior to starting points when one player has an advantage (AD-40). Player positions in the ad court resemble a right-to-left “/” formation.

In addition, competitors stand in the ad court when they have completed an odd number of points in the game, e.g. at 30-15.

Origins of AD & Advantage

The peculiarity of tennis scoring is made stranger by its disputed origins. Deuce and advantage play in tennis is thought to exist due to officials hundreds of years ago not wanting to decide games by a single point. Hence, they brought in the deuce convention so that players had to win every game with a difference of at least two points.

Some historians believe that clocks were originally used in France to keep track of tennis scores. Each player’s score was represented by the turning of a clock’s hands. Quarter-past was one point (15-0), half-past was two points (30-0), and quarter-to the hour was three points (45-0).

The clock hand moving from 45 to 60 would indicate the end of the game. With the deuce rule in place, an advantage score could not be represented by 60 since this would confuse players. The solution was to change the 45 clock position to 40. This way, deuce was easily visible with both clocks at 40 (hence the modern 40-40).

When a player had the advantage, their clock hand would move to 50. If they won the next point, their clock hand would progress to the 60 mark to signal the game’s end. Alternatively, if they lost the point, their clock could move back to 40 and the game would proceed again from deuce.

Is There an Alternative Scoring System?

The method of scoring present in tennis today is known as “ad-scoring”, which simply means that the deuce-advantage convention is present in games. This of course means players must win two consecutive points after deuce to end the game. There is a distinct alternative called “no-ad scoring”.

This style of game declares a winner after they have won 4 points in a game, no matter the order. The benefit is that games comprise a maximum of 7 points. This can save a player’s energy throughout the match because games won’t go between deuce and advantage for long periods.

No-ad scoring has little impact if a match has few deuce games. This system also makes points at 40-40 more important since a single mistake can lose you the game. With ad-scoring, you would still have a chance to win the game.

No-ad scoring appears in some professional doubles events as well as high-school and college tournaments. The aim is to speed up matches to aid scheduling and to make them more exciting for spectators.

American tennis player James Van Alen is credited with inventing the no-ad system. Despite its lovers and critics, we are unlikely to see it in professional men’s and women’s singles contests any time soon.

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