Even people who don’t play the sport of tennis know that the game has pretty tricky scoring compared to other sports. It can be tough to understand all the different terms, but eventually, most figure it out as they play.
One of the trickiest things to get used to starts with the very first point of each game. It also is constantly coming up when calling out the score throughout the match. The first point is called something different in tennis that doesn’t appear in any other sport.
What Is The First Point In Tennis Called? The first point in tennis is called love. It stands for a lack of score in points, as well as games and sets. While the term’s origin isn’t 100% set in stone, it’s stuck around the sport for more than a century.
Where Did Love Come From?
There are two common theories when it comes to where the term “love” comes from. According to the Oxford English dictionary, one suggestion is that love is short for “to play for love.” This is more of a sportsmanship move, as players who have no points are still playing the game competitively and going for shots.
The other common theory is that love is related to l’oeuf, which is the French word for egg. The two words do sound pretty similar, and a zero has a similar shape to an egg. However, as more people have researched this theory, there are a lot of holes in this being true.
At this stage, most tennis fans don’t question the history of love. Instead, they embrace the uniqueness as just one more weird term used with scoring and playing tennis.
What is the Proper Tennis Scoring Structure?
To start, it’s important to understand that points lead to games, which lead to sets, which lead to a match. The most common format is to play a best-of-three sets match to determine the winner. Keeping score throughout that match takes some knowledge of the game.
- 0 (or Love)=0 Points
- 15=1 Point
- 30=2 Points
- 40=3 Points
- 1 Game=4 Points (If not deuce happens)
For example, if the score is 30-0, the umpire will say: “Thirty, love”.
Love is a score of zero. If a player scores one point, they actually get 15. Two points are equal to 30, and three points are equal to 40 (the thought here is saying “40” is much easier than saying “45”). Deuce occurs if the two sides are tied at three points each.
Since one side must win by two, there is advantage-in if the server is winning, and advantage-out if the server is losing. Players usually shorten this to ad-in and ad-out. In official matches, the umpire will say “advantage (player’s name)” to make it easier for fans to follow.
Sets play on until one side wins six. If the set score is tied 5-5, one side must win the next two games to win the set (i.e. 7-5). If the set score ties up at 6-6, the most common format is to play a 7-point tiebreak. The winner of the tiebreak wins the set.
In a best-of-three match, it ends when one side wins two sets. In a best-of-five match, it ends when one side wins three sets. This is why tennis matches sometimes go on for five or six hours, while others wrap up in just over an hour.
You can learn more about tennis scoring in this post.
When is the Right Time to Use Love?
Keeping score means that the server should always be calling out their score first. That means if the server wins the first point, the score is 15-0. If the receiver wins the first point, the score is 0-15. When calling out the game score, “zero” should never be used. This is the perfect time to use the word love instead.
At the start of each service game, calling out the score is another opportunity to use love as a term. If the set score is 3-0, it would be verbalized most commonly as “three love.”
Will a Person be Judged if They Don’t Say the Word Love?
The term love in tennis has become such a common word that someone would get a weird look if they said zero instead. Most players aren’t necessarily doing this because they want to appear stuck up, but they are just not used to hearing any other terminology on the tennis courts.
Even if it seems overwhelming to learn all the verbiage of tennis early on, it’s pretty easy to pick up after just a few days. From there, tennis players will sound more and more like they know what they are talking about.
Is Love Here to Stay in Tennis?
Tennis fully embraces its weird scoring structure and terms. If anything, they are leaning into it more than ever.
That means that love is here to stay in tennis. It creates a bit of a learning curve for casual fans, but tennis doesn’t seem to care. Regardless of origin or practicality, love truly does mean nothing in tennis.