Why Is Tennis Scored 15 30 40?

Most sports have a pretty straight forward scoring system, but this is certainly not the case with the weird 15 30 40 scoring system in tennis. The tennis scoring system is for sure quite strange, but there are some logical reasons for the scoring system to be like that.

Why is tennis scored 15 30 40? The theory of why tennis is scored 15 30 40 is coming from medieval french. There was a clock faced on the court and on each score the pointer moved round a quarter, from 0 to 15, 30, 45 and on 60 the game was over. They used 40 instead of 45 to allow deuce at 50.

How The 15 30 40 Got Created

There is no official source on who invented the scoring system and why the scoring system are using the non logical, 15,30,40 system. However, there are som good theories that makes sense and should be considered trustworthy.

One of the most trustworthy theories of the origins of the 15, 30, and 40 scores are coming from the medieval French. It’s possible that a clock face was used on court. On each score the pointer moved round a quarter, from 0 to 15, 30, 45 and on 60 the game was over.

Why 40 Instead Of 45?

In order to ensure that the game could not be won by a one point difference they introduced “deuce”. To make the score stay within the 60 (Max minutes in a hour) on the clock face, the 45 was changed to 40.

Therefore, if both players have 40, the first player to score receives ten, which moves the clock to 50. If the player scores a second time before the opponent is able to score, they are awarded another ten and the clock moves to 60.

The 60 signifies that the game is over. However, if a player fails to score twice in a row, then the clock would move back to 40 to establish another deuce.

Many believe that they used 45 in the beginning but they later changed it to 40 because they couldnt bother to saying the full number 45. Think about it, 15 (Fifteen), 30 (Thirty) is easy to say, since it only includes one word. However, 45 is 2 words (forty five). It’s much easier to pronounce 40.

Other Tennis Scoring Theories

Another theory of how the 15 30 50 is coming from the french sport “palm game”. The palm game was quite similar to tennis, but the big difference was that they used their hands instead of rackets.

The palm game courts are exactly 90 feet long and 45 on each side. When a player wins a points, he got to move up 15 feet on the court, if he won another point he got to move up another 15 feet, 30 feet in total for 2 points. If the player wins a third point, he would need to move in to the net, since the courts are 45 feet long. Therefore the third pointer was 10 feet, which gave the 15 30 40 scoring system.

The scoring for the palm game was exactly the same as the tennis scores are today and because of that, there are a lot of historians that strongly believe in this theory. It does make more sense than the clock theory, but it needs to be said that the clock theory got more proof behind it.

The third Theory is that the 15 30 and 40 was copied from the game sphairistike, which was played by British officers in India during the 19th century. That game’s scoring system was based on the different gun calibres of the British naval ships. When firing a salute, the ships first fired their 15-pound guns on the main deck, followed by the 30-pound guns of the middle deck, and finally by the 40-pound lower gun deck.

Why Is 0 Called Love?

There are a lot of theory of why “love” is used as a zero in tennis. There isn’t a direct answer to the question, however there are some logical theories that makes a lot of sense. These are the 4 main theory of why 0 is called “love”.

An often heard theory is that the term also comes from a France. Since the symbol for zero “0” resembled an egg it was said to be known as l’oeuf, meaning ‘an egg’ which over the years was corrupted in the English to become love.

The most popular theory that most tennis fans wants to believe is that “love” means, love of the game and that the players with 0 points have nothing to lose. It were used as a reminder that the only thing you have when stuck at 0 points is the “love” for the game.

Another theory from Heiner Gillmeister, a professor of linguistics at Bonn University in Germany is that they traced the word to a Dutch or Flemish word, “lof,” meaning honor. How the word “honor” is correlated to 0 points in tennis is not yet clear.

The fourth theory comes from the 17th-century expression “play for love,” meaning ‘to play without any wager, for nothing. “Nothing” is expressed in the 0 points.

Tennis isn’t unique for calling zero “love”, in certain card games, as well as in the occasional British football commentary. The proper way to describe a score of zero to zero is to say love-all.

Final Thoughts

The truth is unknown. Since the game was reinvented 140 years ago people have wondered about this without conclusion. The clock idea is widely cited, but the evidence isn’t enough to call this a fact.

But, does it even matter where the scoring comes from? not really. the scores of 15,30 and 40 are really just labels, not amounts. They could easily be replaced by 1,2 and 3. It’s not as if we have to add points or subtract them arithmetically.

Tennis is developing for every year that goes by, but there are certain things in the sport that never will change. That is the scoring system and if you think about the remarkable history of the sport, It totally make sense that they have kept the same scoring system up to this date.

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coach upcoming talents.

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