What Is A Game In Tennis? (Definition & Rules Explained)

The scoring system in tennis is quite different from that in other sports. In tennis, points, games, and sets are counted. But what is a game in tennis?

The scoring in tennis consists of points, games, and sets. A game is the next unit of tennis scoring above points. A game in tennis can be won by scoring four points but can only be won by two points difference. In tennis, games are needed to win sets and sets to win the match.

In this article, you will find out more about games in tennis. For example, how many points there are in a game, how many games there are in a set, and how a game progresses in tennis!

What is a Game in Tennis?

In a tennis match, you need to win a certain number of sets (usually two) in order to win the match. You win a set by winning a certain number of games.

But what exactly is a game in tennis?

A game is the second smallest unit of scoring in a tennis match, with the smallest being points. You need to win points to win a game.

Interestingly in tennis, you can win more games than your opponent and still lose the match. Games only count towards winning a set.

How long does a game take in tennis?

A game will usually go on for between five and ten minutes, but it can go on for a lot longer, for reasons that we will see later.

How do Games Work in Tennis?

A tennis game consists of points. By winning four points, a player wins the game. However, a game can only be won when there is a minimum of two points difference.

Tennis has quite a peculiar scoring system in games, but it is straightforward once you’ve understood it.

Instead of counting points with 1, 2, and 3, in tennis, you have 15, 30, and 40.

Here is a table to better visualize the system:

Number of points won:Score:
0Love
115
230
340
3 points eachDeuce (40-40)
4Game

During each tennis game, a different player serves. This game is called a service game for the serving players.

But what is a service game? 

If you have watched professional tennis, you have probably heard the term ‘service game,’ but what is it exactly?

Every game in tennis is a service game. A service game refers to the player serving. So if Nadal is going to serve in the next game, it is called Nadal’s service game. 

Below is an example of how a tennis game works in practice:

Score 0-0:

A tennis game always starts with both players on the right side of the court and thus diagonally facing each other. When the serving player wins the first point, the score will be 15-0.

Score 15-0:

After the first point is played, both players start on the left side of the court. When the receiving player wins the second point, the score will be 15-15 (in tennis terms, 15-all).

Score 15-all:

Again, both players switch to the other side of the court (right side). The third point is won by the serving player again. This brings the score to 30-15.

Score 30-15:

Like after every point, both players change to the other side of the court again (left side). The serving player wins the fourth point as well. The score is now 40-15, which means game point for the serving player.

Score 40-15:

Both players move to the right side of the court again. With this particular score, the serving players only need to win one more point to win the game. (Later in this article, more about game points)

This fifth point is also won by the serving player, meaning this player wins the current game.

This is just one example of how a game can turn out in tennis.

There are many different scenarios possible, each with its own rules. I will go into this in more detail later in this article.

So what happens after the first game?

When this game is finished, players change serve, meaning the player that served just before is now the receiving player. Changing serves continues to be done after each game.

So ​​how do you win a game in tennis?

To win a game in tennis, a player must win four points. However, a game can only be won with a difference of two points. So in the case of a 40-40 (deuce) score, a player must win two consecutive points to win the game.

(Click here to learn even more about what a point is in tennis)

How Many Points Are in a Tennis Game?

There is no limit to how many points are in a tennis game.

The shortest possible game is four points long, with one player winning four points in a row.

But again, there are many different scenarios possible. And in the case of deuce, a game could theoretically consist of an endless amount of points.

Here is an example of the scoring process in a tennis game:

  • You win the first point of the game.
    The score will be: 15-0
  • You also win the second point.
    The score will be: 30-0
  • Your opponent wins the third point.
    The score will be: 30-15
  • You win the fourth point.
    The score will be: 40-15
  • If you win the next point, you will win the game.
    Because the point after 40 will win you the game

Except if the opponent also has 40. 40-40 is a special score in tennis called deuce. When it’s deuce, you need to win two points in a row to win the game.

If you win a point when your score is 40, your score goes to advantage. If you win a point when it’s your advantage, you win the game.

But if you have advantage and lose the point, the score goes back to 40-40 (deuce). Then again, one of the players must win two points in a row to win the game.

(Click here to find out more about what deuce is in tennis)

This can lead to very long games where neither player is able to win the two necessary points in a row.

The longest single game in history was between Fawcett and Glass. It lasted 37 deuces, 81 points, and 31 minutes long!

What is a Game Point in Tennis?

A game point in tennis is when a player needs only one more point to win the current game. So if this player manages to win the next point, then this player wins the current game.

However, this player must win the game by at least two points difference.

Some examples of when a player has a game point:

  • 40-0 (game point)
    The serving player only needs one more point to win the game, with at least a two points difference.
  • 40-15 (game point)
    The serving player only needs one more point to win the game, with at least a two points difference.
  • 40-30 (game point)
    The serving player only needs one more point to win the game, with at least a two points difference.
  • 40-40 (deuce) (no game point)
    By winning the next point, neither player can win the game by at least two points difference.
  • Ad-40 (game point)
    The serving player has advantage, so by winning the next point, the game will be won by at least two points difference.

In all of the above examples, the serving player had the advantage. But if you flip the scores, then the same thing applies only to the returning player.

How Many Games Are in a Tennis Set?

You need to win at least six games to win a tennis set. Just as you must win by two points difference to win a game, you must win by at least two games difference to win a set.

If you are unsure what a set is, you can first read our explanation of what a set is in tennis.

That means that you can win a set 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4.

If the score gets to 5-5, you can win the set by winning two games, therefore winning the set 7-5.

If the score gets to 6-6, then a tie-break is played, and the winner of the tie-break wins the set.

(Click here if you don’t know what a tie-break is in tennis)

That means there are a maximum of 13 games in a tennis set and a minimum of 6.

Both scores, 6-0 and 7-6 are common in tennis, as are all other scores.

One thing is certain: each set in tennis consists of a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 13 games.

How Many Games Are in a Pro Set in Tennis?

While in a regular tennis set, a minimum of six games must be won to win the set, in a pro set, a minimum of eight games must be won.

A pro set in tennis must also be won, like a regular set, with at least two games difference.

That means that you can win a set 8-0, 8-1, 8-2, 8-3, 8-4, 8-5, and 8-6.

If the score gets to 7-7, you can win the set by winning two games, therefore winning the set 9-7.

If the score gets to 8-8, then a tie-break is played, and the winner of the tie-break wins the set.

That means there are a maximum of 17 games in a tennis set and a minimum of 8.

How Many Games Are in a Tennis Match?

Almost all professional matches are best of three sets, meaning you need to win two sets to win the match.

Therefore, the shortest match possible will be 12 games long with a score of 6-0, 6-0. The longest match will be 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, with a total of 39 games.

There are some exceptions.

Grand Slams, the biggest tournaments in tennis, have special rules, although these now have changed.

The men’s competitions at Grand Slams (Wimbledon, Roland-Garros, US Open, and Australian Open) are best of five sets rather than three.

This means the winner is the first to win three sets, meaning there are at least 18 games in a match.

On top of that, the fifth set used to be endless. The winner would have to win by at least a two games difference, which led to extremely long matches.

The longest match of all time was played at Wimbledon between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner. It lasted 11 hours and five minutes.

How many games were in this match?

A total of 183 games! The final set counted 138 games, with Isner winning 70-68. 

For now, the Grand Slams have abandoned this tennis rule. However, it could be re-adopted later on.

Conclusion

So, that was a simple summary of what a game is in tennis.

It may seem complicated at first, but it will seem completely normal once you get the hang of it. 

To conclude: you need to win four points to win a game (but it has to be by two points). If you win six games, you win the set (but it has to be by two games).

If the score is tied at 6-6, the match goes to a tie-break, which is first to 7 (but you’ve guessed it, you need to win by two points)

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
Published: 
May 18, 2022
Published: May 18, 2022