The terminology in tennis is just a little bit different compared to other sports. Not only is the scoring system tough to figure out for beginners, but one of the simplest words is changed up as well when calling out the score.
Hearing the word “love” thrown around throughout a tennis match might seem weird to the casual observer. The truth is, love means something different in tennis than anywhere else.
Why Is Zero Called Love In Tennis? The origin of zero being referred to as love in tennis goes back to the French word for egg. The reason is that a zero looks like an outline of an egg, and the French word for egg is l’oeuf. In English, the pronunciation of l’oeuf and love are very similar, and the wording stuck.
Is It Wrong To Say Zero Instead of Love on the Court?
The general consensus is that people who say zero instead of love in tennis are not all that educated in the sport. They sound a little bit off, and they will probably get a few judging looks from players as well.
It’s frustrating to deal with something like this, but most tennis players learn the terminology pretty quickly. Most people consider it nothing more than part of learning a new sport and fitting in with the terminology. Every sport has its own unique feel to it.
Other Unique Tennis Scoring Words
If it seems like love is the only word very unique to the sport of tennis, others have seeped into play as well. It sometimes feels like tennis players have come up with their own language in general, as there are a lot of unique sayings that really aren’t talked about in any other sport.
Giving someone a bagel in tennis means that the set ended 6-0. This is again all about relating the number 0 to a type of food. The official score would read as six to love, but in slang, it’s referred to as bageling an opponent.
Staying within the same food group, saying breadstick is a way to refer to a 6-1 set finish. This is still a very dominating win, and a breadstick looks like a number one. Players winning routinely by handing out bagels and breadsticks probably need to find better players overall to have a bit more of a challenge.
The word deuce is used whenever there is a tie at 40-40 in a game. It comes from the French word deux de jeux, which translates to two games. In this instance, it means two points, as a player needs to score two points in a row to win the game.
When the serve hits the net and falls into the service box, it is referred to as a let. Some find it odd that it’s not called a net or something similar, since it directly involves hitting the net itself.
However, that comes from the old Saxon word “lettian.” This word is meant as hindering something or someone. In the form of tennis, hitting the net is an interruption of play.
The best way to remember to say let is to think of it as short for “let me serve again.” When a let occurs, a player gets the opportunity to hit that serve again. Theoretically, a player could hit ten lets in a row, and they are still on their first serve.
An ace is whenever a server hits a winning serve past the receiver. The receiver can’t make contact with the ball, even by a little bit, or it is otherwise known as a service winner.
A lot of players go for aces in the sport, but pulling them off is sometimes a pretty difficult task with how athletic players are these days.
What Is With The Rest of The Scoring System In Tennis?
Scoring in tennis starts with love as another word for zero, but it gets even weirder after that. A lot of people are indeed confused by just how to keep score in tennis when they first start.
Instead of counting traditionally, each point is worth 15, and the first one to 60, as long as they win by two or more points, wins the game. Then, a player must win six games to win a set, and either two or three sets to win the match.
After love, winning one point makes it 15. Winning two points is 30, and winning three points is 40. Why 40 and not 45? It has to do with the ease of saying the word, as well as how the game was scored back in the day.
Scores were recorded by using clock faces during the 15th and 16th centuries. Moving the clock face from 30 to 40 not only looked cleaner, but it allowed for the clock to move from 40 to 50 to signify an advantage, before going to 60 once someone won by two. If it went up to 45, it would complicate the scoring system a lot more when using a clock face.
Yes, it seems a little weird that all tennis scoring is still stuck back in days that were so different, but now it is fairly easy for players to keep track of.
Will Tennis Terminology Ever Change?
Throughout history, tennis has always held onto the past, while looking towards the future. They’ve embraced certain technologies, but a lot of the terminology used is still stuck in the past. At this point, the scoring system, the word for scores, and so much more make it unique in its own way.
It would take a lot of time to adjust to a new way, so it’s probably best to stick with what they have at this point. It’s worked for so long, and tennis fans and players seem to be fine with it.