Understanding What it Takes to Win

It doesn’t matter which sport you are playing. In order to play the game, you must understand how to win the game. I am not talking about the manner in which you play the game, the way to play that gives you the greatest chance of being victorious. I am actually talking about understanding the scoring system of the game.

In golf, the lowest score wins. If you don’t know that from the start, then you are never going to finish with your name at the top of the Leaderboard.

Now, tennis is not like golf. Playing tennis is, if boiled down to its simplest form, a matter of scoring more points than your opponent. However, if it were that simple, the sport would, well… it would be just as tough, but we would have a lot less to talk about.

The points in tennis work to an order that nobody truly understands in terms of the why, but everybody accepts with regards the how. If you are a tennis player already, then you will know that the points run as below:

  • 0
  • 15
  • 30
  • 40
  • Game!

This seems simple, but why the strange scoring numbers. Why not 45 after the 30. That would make sense, right?

The truth is that nobody really knows, but there are good arguments out there for one logic, and then there are better ones for others.

Tennis Player Serving

For the Love of Eggs

No other sport in the world, not that I can think of, start off with an exclamation of emotion. Love. Why do we say that a tennis player with zero points, is playing at love?

If you are playing tennis, even as an amateur tennis player, it is a near certainty that you use the word ‘love’ at some point during the match.

This is not because you feel such affection towards your opponent or perhaps even your own misfortune, but rather, maybe people believe it to mean egg.

The use of eggs; duck and goose, are synonymous with a zero score. Couple this with the fact that tennis can be traced back to France, and the French word for egg is L’oeuf.

Throw into the mix a small mispronunciation, as is the traditional English way, then it would be easy to see why we love tennis so much.

Who knows, if someone explains this to the English tennis players, maybe they will actually start winning a few points in the future.

 Tennis Racket and Balls

Forty Points Makes an Even Game

Zero, fifteen, thirty, forty-five. That makes sense. There is a clear pattern there. Tennis points do not quite follow this logic. Instead, they go from fifteen, to thirty, to forty. Makes sense, right?.

Many people believe that tennis points work on a clock, fifteen minute intervals. Which makes sense. But why forty? Well, the most regularly accepted answer is that because tennis games must be won by two clear points, moving from thirty to forty means that there are two naturally progressive steps to sixty that mean a game can still be won based on the clock.

This explanation is the best thing going, and at the end of the day, the main thing you need to know, as an amateur tennis player, is that once you hit forty, there are still two more points to be played, and that means keeping your focus.

Forty points is also a special figure in the game. Should both you and your partner find yourselves on forty points, then you are at ‘deuce’. Once again, another French word. This one is most probably another botched British attempt at language, taken from the term á deux de jeu which translates to ‘two for the game.’

 Tennis net

When the French Don’t Use French

Perhaps the strangest thing with the whole scoring of tennis, is that while all of the terminologies and history can be traced back to French origins, the French use none of the words; neither the proposed French originals, the botch British efforts or anything in between. Zero is zero, and deuce is égalité which means equal. That makes much more sense to me. Maybe the French, realizing their bizarre system, gave it to the English and then laughed at them as they reverted to the more sensible naming convention that they still use today.

Knowing the above, is not going to improve your game, but for those that like playing tennis, it is always interesting to learn more about the hobby you are playing.

 Tennis Scoreboard
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