Basic Score Keeping
I'll cover the basics of score-keeping and not get into the more complex stuff.
Tennis scores are made up of points, games, sets and the match (or for teams, several matches).
Two general rules apply to how you say scores:
1) The servers score is called first (this takes priority over rule 2 during the match)
2) You say your own score first (especially after the match). For instance, you didn’t lose 6-3, 6-2, you lost 3-6, 2-6.
A POINT is the basic unit of play. A point ends when:
The server misses their serve twice
A ball that is hit lands out of bounds (or on your own side of the net)
The ball bounces twice before being hit
When the ball hits the fence or anything other than the net
Or everyone's favorite, when the ball hits a person (if you get hit, you lose the point).
A point usually lasts 1-15 seconds.
GAMES are easy in high school tennis since we use what is called No-Ad scoring. A game is won by winning four points before your opponent. Just to make it difficult, the points are not called 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 - they opted to call them Love, 15, 30, 40. The fourth point doesn’t have a name because it ends the game. So, if the server has won 1 point and their opponent has won 3, the score is 15-40, and the returner just needs to win one more point to win the game. The score of 40-40 is known as "deuce", and the next point for either player wins the game in no-ad scoring. Games typically last 2-4 minutes.
SETS vary in length and are a collection of games. Varsity matches play sets up to 6 games, while JV play sets up to 8 (called a Pro-Set). Sets must be won by two games, and if they are tied at the end (6-6 or 8-8), we play a tie-breaker instead of having to battle to win by two games. In a few tournaments a year, the pros play that you have to win by 2 games in the final set. That led to an eleven-hour match a few years ago with a final score of 6-3, 4-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. We like to go home, so we play tie-breakers at 6-6 (varsity) and 8-8 (JV), which will be covered as an advanced topic. Sets typically last 30-45 minutes.
MATCHES also vary by varsity and JV. The Pro-set to 8 that JVs play is their entire match. But varsity matches are best 2 out of 3 sets (up to 6). Varsity matches typically last an hour or 90 minutes, but can easily push beyond 2 hours with evenly matched opponents.
Team Matches for JV are all doubles and are made up of as many matches as we can possibly get in. For varsity, matches are 4 singles matches and 4 doubles matches. If the match is tied at 4-4, we count sets to see who won, and if the number of sets are tied, we count the total games won. So, in a varsity match, every game potentially counts. We've had a lot of matches where we needed to count games and it’s usually very close.
You can learn to keep score fairly quickly by playing Wii tennis or watching tennis on TV and paying attention to the score. Those both will have scores called “Ad-In” or “Ad-Out” after someone wins the point at deuce. We only use those scores at the state tournament and instead play what is called “No-Ad” scoring, meaning that whoever wins the point at Deuce wins the game.