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AstroChuck's avatar

Love, 15, 30, 40,... What's up with the scoring system in tennis?

Asked by AstroChuck (37662points) February 7th, 2010

Shouldn’t it just go 0, 1, 2, 3, advantage, game? The current system is just plain odd, don’t you think? Does anyone else feel perhaps the International Tennis Federation might want to revise the rules in regards to scoring? (I know it’s not going to happen. Just wondering. That’s all.)

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16 Answers

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I heard that the “love” score is a bastardization of the french word “l’oeuf” (egg) and the scores used to go love, 15, 30, 45, (60) but got abbreviated later on.

grumpyfish's avatar

OED thinks otherwise: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the word “love” in English to mean “zero” was to define how a game was to be played, rather than the score in the game itself. Gambling games could be played for stakes (money) or “for love (of the game)”, ie. for zero stakes. The first such recorded usage quoted in the OED was in 1678. The shift in meaning from “zero stakes” to “zero score” is not an enormous conceptual leap, and the first recorded usage of the word “love” to mean “no score” is by Hoyle in 1742 (OED, 2nd Edition).(From:

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@grumpyfish Hmm… two stories from different side of the channel. I bet this is the whole reason the English and French don’t get along.

Zen_Again's avatar

Okay love = zero – I get it. But why 15,30, etc.?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Zen_Again I think clocks were used for scoring? Again, hearsay.

Zen_Again's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre That makes sense…

MissAnthrope's avatar

Never made much sense to me, either.. but then again, games/sports are scored strangely. Why 6 points for a touchdown? Why 2 points for a regular basket?

ucme's avatar

Wot the deuce!

Ivan's avatar

When trying to explain it to people unfamiliar with tennis, I find that most people are confused by the “point, game, set, and match” notation. In most major sports played in America, a “game” is the entirety of the contest, not a small portion of it.

sferik's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre I’ve heard that they used to use clocks for scoring, but I still don’t understand why it’s 0, 15, 30, 40 instead of 0, 15, 30, 45?

Zen_Again's avatar

@sferik Perhaps they couldn’t tell time?

sferik's avatar

@MissAnthrope I agree with the questions premise that the scoring in tennis is particularly arbitrary, more than in other popular sports.

In basketball, if a field goal was worth 1, how much would a free throw be worth? How much would a three-pointer be worth? If you changed a three-pointer to a two-pointer and a normal field goal to just be worth one point, long shots would become much more valuable, relatively speaking. This would significantly change the game dynamics, strategy, and required skill set. Two points for a field goal seems like the minimum whole number, without getting into fractional points.

Same in football. A touchdown is equal to two field goals, three safeties, or 6 PATs. If a touchdown was worth less, then you’d either have to get into fractional points or you’d change the game dynamics significantly.

I think the relative value of points in these games works quite well, as proved out my their huge popularity.

However, in tennis, the numbers seem unnecessarily inflated. Echoing @AstroChuck: Why shouldn’t it just go 0, 1, 2, 3, advantage, game?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@sferik Yeah, maybe it was 15, 30, 45 – but later the forty-five got dropped to just forty over the course of time. Probably for the same reason we spell it forty instead of fourty. ha!

Zen_Again's avatar

I agree with @sferik ‘s reasoning completely. Especially regarding the points systems in basketball and football. Granted, tennis could be scored similarly to table-tennis, or perhaps even volleyball. But you know what – I enjoy the scoring this way – and just as you said “as proved by their huge popularity” – perhaps someone did think it through – and when watching a game, it sorta makes sense. N’est ce pas?

Vincentt's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre I like the clock theory. And forty-five is a bit of a mouthful.

Of course, Wikipedia knows something about this: I love Wikipedia

__theory is that the scoring nomenclature came from the French game jeu de paume (a precursor to tennis that substituted the racquet for a hand). Jeu de paume was very popular before the French revolution, with more than 1,000 courts in Paris alone. The traditional court was 90 ft in total with 45 ft on each side. When the server scored, he moved forward 15 ft. If he scored again, he would move another 15 ft. If he scored a third time, he could only move 10 ft closer.__

(Though then again, it is listed without citation, so it’s still just a theory.)

And there also are some more theories about the origin of ‘love’.

Pseudonym's avatar

Yeah, and what genius decided not to use the metric system here in the US?

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