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

The scoring system in tennis is often labeled as weird and confusing. The system consists of points, games, and sets. But what is a point in tennis?

The scoring in tennis consists of points, games, and sets. A point in tennis is the smallest unit of scoring. Points form the basis of the entire point system in tennis. Other scoring units, such as games and sets, are ultimately made up of points.

The point system in tennis, as mentioned, is quite complicated. How are points counted, and in what ways can you win a point in tennis? Find out the answer to this question and more in this article!

What is a Point in Tennis?

In tennis, everything actually starts with a point. It is the lowest scoring unit in the sport. All other scoring units are ultimately made up of individual points.

If you have ever seen a tennis match, then you have watched tennis players play a point.

One player serves by hitting the ball into the service box, the opponent returns the ball anywhere in the court, and then a rally takes place, with each player hitting the ball over the net and in between the lines.

Eventually, one player makes a mistake or gets outplayed by their opponent. That player loses the point, and the whole process starts again.

The beauty of tennis is how important every point is. A tennis match is like a war, and every individual point is another battle.

The best players will always give everything for every point, no matter how badly they lose or how unlikely it seems that they will win.

The majority of tennis points are not very long, with each player hitting the ball a few times each at most.

However, sometimes the points seem like they go on forever, with each player throwing everything they have at their opponent.

At the highest level, some points are almost works of art.

Seeing a player like Djokovic hit the ball as hard as he can into the corner, and seeing a player like Nadal galloping to return it and hitting it just as hard, is a sensational feeling.

If you’re anything like me, it will make you fall in love with the sport. 

How do Points Work in Tennis?

Scoring in tennis is quite complicated to understand for beginners, but once you get used to it, it will be straightforward.

A point in tennis is the lowest unit of scoring. This means that after each rally played, a point is awarded to the winner of the respective rally.

By winning a certain number of points, a player can win games, these games are then needed to win sets, and if enough sets are won, you win the match.

Because a point in tennis is the lowest unit of scoring, it forms the basis of the point system in tennis.

A vast majority of tennis matches are as follows:

  • If you win four points, you win the game
  • If you win six games, you win the set
  • If you win two sets, you win the match

(For more information, check out these articles on what a game is in tennis and what a set is in tennis)

So, how are points played in tennis?

When a point starts in tennis, the serving player lines up on the baseline on one side of the court.

For the first point, they serve from the right, and then every point afterward, the server will switch sides, from right to left and vice versa.

Their opponent lines up on the opposite side of the court (if the server is on the right, the returner is on the other side of the net on the left side)

A serve must land in the service box, the small squares just next to the net. The opponent has the whole area between the lines to aim for when returning the ball (this area changes in singles and doubles).

Tennis court line names
See where the baseline and service box is located:

Then, the point continues until one player doesn’t put the ball back in play, and the opponent wins the point.

Once a player wins four points, they win the game. When a player wins six games, they win the set. If a player wins two sets, they win the match.

That is a basic overview of how points work in tennis. 

However, the scoring of points is a little bit peculiar. Indeed, in tennis, you don’t count your points with 1, 2, 3, etc. Instead, there is another system.

But how are points counted in tennis?

The points in tennis are counted with 15, 30, and 40. This is believed to be because they are each a quarter of an hour.

You are probably thinking to yourself that 40 should be 45 then.

Actually, in tennis, when both players win three points each, it is called deuce. When there is a deuce, players need to win two points in a row to win the game.

If they win a point from deuce, it is called their advantage. Win a point when it is your advantage, then you win the game.

(Click here if you want to learn more about what deuce is in tennis)

Therefore, it is 40 rather than 45 because of this deuce rule, at least that is widely believed.

To clearly understand tennis scoring, here is a table that will help explain:

Points won:Score in tennis:
1-015-0
2-030-0
3-040-0
4-0Game
3-3Deuce
4-3Advantage
1-1, 2-215-all, 30-all

It is worth pointing out that the 0 is pronounced as love in tennis.

This is probably because the 0 resembles an egg, and “the egg” in French is “l’oeuf.” The pronunciation of l’oeuf is very similar to love.

How do You Win a Point in Tennis?

Winning a point in tennis sounds simple, but there are several ways to do it. You can even win a point without having touched the ball.

Below I explain the different ways to win a point in tennis.

Ace:

A tennis ace is when the serving player hits a serve into the service box, and the receiving player fails to touch the ball with the racket.

The point is counted as an ace only if the receiving player does not touch the ball with the racket. So an ace is also counted as a winner in tennis.

So, only the serving player can win a point by hitting an ace.

(Click here if you want to learn exactly what an ace is in tennis)

Double fault:

A double fault in tennis is when both the first and second serves are not hit into the opponent’s service box.

After hitting a double fault, the serving player loses the point. This player has a new first and a second serve on the next serve.

In this case, only the returning player can win a point, namely if the opponent hits a double fault.

(Click here if you want to learn exactly what a double fault is in tennis)

Winner:

A winner in tennis is when one player hits the ball, and their opponent doesn’t manage to get their racket to it before the second bounce.

Winners are often very exciting shots in tennis. An ace is technically a winner but can only be hit by the serving player.

Unforced error:

The definition of an unforced error is a missed shot or lost point that is entirely the result of the player’s own mistake or poor judgment and not because of the opponent’s skill or effort.

The determination of an unforced error is based on whether the player was in total control right before an unforced error was committed.

For example, your opponent almost outplayed you during a point and only needs to hit an easy shot down the line while you are still on the other side of the court.

Suppose your opponent hits this shot long, without being under pressure by you. In this case, the point will be counted as an unforced error.

Forced error:

A forced error is when a player hits a shot – whether placed well or powerful – and puts their opponent into a difficult spot.

Essentially, you are forcing your opponent to make a mistake because of the shot you produced.

So, in this case, a point can be won because one player causes the other to make a mistake.

(Click here to find out the exact difference between a forced error and an unforced error)

There are variations of these shots, such as a dropshot winner or a volley winner, but all points in tennis will be won in one of these five ways.

Generally speaking, players will focus on either hitting as many winners as they can or on hitting as few unforced errors as possible.

This is because they are linked; the more winners you try to hit, the more unforced errors you are likely to make.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a game point in tennis?

A game point in tennis is when a player is one point away from winning a game. Win that point, and they win the game, hence the name game point.

What is a set point in tennis?

A set point is also a game point, but not only will the player win the game, but by winning this game, they won will also win the match.

What is a match point in tennis?

A match point is also a game point and a set point. If a player wins the point when it’s their match point, they win the match.

If it is in the final of a Grand Slam, this point is called a Championship point.

What is a break point in tennis?

In tennis, serving is generally considered an advantage. You have the opportunity to put the ball in play however you like, and often the opponent is immediately on the back foot.

Because of this, players are supposed to win their service game. If their opponent wins it instead, this is called a “break” in tennis.

So, if they have the opportunity to break their opponent, then it is their break point.

Conclusion

So, points are the most basic, fundamental, and important part of tennis, with every point being a mini-battle. If you ever see two tennis players playing, they are playing a point.

There are five main ways to win a tennis point.

To make the scoring a bit more complicated, the points are counted as 15, 30, and 40, with a special score called deuce as well.

Once you have understood the scoring system, you will never forget it. 

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 30, 2022
Published: May 30, 2022