How to keep score in tennis? Use the Tennis Score Tracker app.

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Christopher Combes has developed an iPhone, iPad and iPod touch application to help us keep score in tennis and he’s been working every day for over a year to update Tennis Score Tracker. Now he would like to show the product of his hard work and explain to us how it functions and improves our tennis experience. 

Although simple at first, score keeping in tennis can be somewhat complicated, especially with the variety of tennis match formats available to us. This article will demonstrate how to keep score in tennis, with snapshots from Tennis Score Tracker to help guide us along the way.

The Basics

Most tennis matches are played with either two or four players. Scoring is based on “sets” in tennis where the total number of sets are typically “two out of three” or “three out of five”. There are other match formats and set types available that will be discussed in a future article.

Scoring is based on points, games, and sets. Scoring starts at 0-0 (zero games and points each side). When a serving player scores a “point” the score would then be 15-0. As the serve continues to score points the point progression would be 0-0, 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, Game. When a player is awarded a “game” the overall score is then 1-0, upon which the next game is started, with points resetting to 0-0 once again.

In a standard tennis, a set is one when one player has 6 games (e.g. 6-4). However, if both players have 5 games (e.g. 5-5) then one player must win by two games (e.g. 7-5). If both players have 6 games then a tiebreak can be played to determine who wins the set. The first player to win 2 sets (if “two of out three”), or the first player to win 3 sets (if “three out of five”), wins the match.

Advantage Tennis

As discussed above, scoring of points can progress from 0, 15, 30, 40, Game. However, if a game score reaches 40-40 points, an “advantage” tennis is played (see “Ad Mode” in Tennis Score Tracker), the score reaches what is known as deuce. At deuce (i.e. 40-40) the next player to win the point will have the “advantage” and the score would be AD-40 (or “Ad In”) if the server won the point, or 40-AD (or “Ad Out”), if the receiver won the point.

If the advantage player wins the next point then the game is won. However, if the other player wins the point, the score returns to deuce (40-40). This exchange of the advantage can take place indefinitely, unless both players (or teams) agree to a tiebreak to decide the set, perhaps in adherence to time.


There are a variety of tiebreaks available in tennis, most of which are supported by Tennis Score Tracker, as shown in the screen capture. Tiebreaks are typically 7 point, 10 point, or 12 point tiebreaks. 7 point tiebreaks are usually played with standard tennis sets. 10 and 12 point tiebreaks are usually played in a “Pro Set”, where only one set is played, and the game count target is either 8 or 10 games.

In a standard set, a tiebreak would start when the game count for any set is 6-6 (6 games each). The tiebreak count starts at 0-0 for each player. Points are awarded sequentially (1, 2, 3, 4, …) for tiebreaks instead of using the scoring system for games (0, 15, 30, …). This can be a source of confusion for new players, but after some experience with tennis it becomes second nature. The New York Times has a recent article discussing How Tennis Got Its Scoring System, with comments from Andre Agassi and Billie Jean King.

Tiebreaks are won by a player or team when the score target is achieved (e.g. 7 point tiebreak) and a two point difference. For example, a tiebreak is won at 7-5 (or 5-7). However, a tiebreak can continue indefinitely if the two-point difference is not achieved. It appears the longest tiebreaker in tennis is 16-14 in the 2012 London Olympics by John Isner and Janko Tipsarevic.

Sometimes tiebreaks are played to end a match earlier in the event of time constraints, weather, exhaustion, etc.

Point Events

A “point” in tennis is rarely won in a single instance. Points in tennis may consist of a variety of elements including Serve In, Serve out, Ace, Let, Foot Fault, Penalties, Challenges, Winners, Return Winners, Forced Errors, and Unforced Errors. Tennis Score Tracker supports all of these point events and will be used to demonstrate each of them.

Each player is allowed two serves per point. When a new point is started it is “First Serve”. If a serve is out, or a foot fault occurs, then it is “Second Serve”.

A serve is considered in if it lands within the service box (on the diagonal from where a player is serving).

Anywhere else, and the serve is considered out.

An Ace is achieved when a serve is uncontested by the receiving player. If the receiving player makes contact with the ball then the point may be considered a “Service Winner”.

A Let occurs when the ball touches the net but lands within the service box. A Let may occur an unlimited number of times, regardless of what the serve count is (first or second serve).

If a serve is in the service box, and returned by the receiving player, then the result can be a Winner, Return Winner, Forced Error, or Unforced Error.

A Return Winner is where the receiving player returns the serve and wins the point uncontested. A Winner is where either player wins the point uncontested during a rally.

A Forced Error occurs when one player hits the ball in such a way as to cause the opposing player to make a mistake, perhaps when the ball is “jammed” so that the other player cannot return it.

An Unforced Error occurs when a player makes a mistake without it being caused by the opposing player (e.g. hitting the ball into the net, outside the line boundary, etc.)

A Foot Fault occurs when the server moves his or her foot over the baseline during the serve, and before contact is made with the ball.

A Penalty may occur due to a variety of circumstances and could be one of Warning, Point Penalty, Game Penalty, or Match Penalty.

In professional tennis matches players are sometimes allowed to challenge points. When a point is challenged by a player, and the challenge is won (e.g. a serve was called out, but was in fact in), then the player is awarded the point. If the challenge is lost, then the score remains unchanged.

Rally Counts are another aspect of tennis which is the number of exchanges which take place after the serve has been completed. Here is a screen capture from Tennis Score Tracker which supports rally counts:


Scoring in tennis has many elements, and keeping track of them can be a challenging task. This is where Tennis Score Tracker can help. It can keep track of every point detail, and display a history of points, as well as a variety of statistics as well. You can also score your tennis matches Live for viewing on another device, through purchase in-app tokens.

Tennis Score Tracker can be downloaded for free on the App Store. The free version is limited to a history of 3 tennis matches, but is fully functional and a great way to check out the app.


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