Why does the scoring system go 15, 30 and 40 in tennis matches?

Tennis has one of the most unusual forms of scoring in sport, often leaving many neutrals confused, and many tennis fans probably wouldn’t be able to tell you why it goes from 0 to 15, 30 and 40

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Tennis in 2022 has well and truly got off to a flyer with the Australian Open providing plenty of controversy as well as entertainment.

Novak Djokovic’s exclusion from the tournament certainly overshadowed things to begin with and was plenty for any neutral to digest.

And so the last thing that fans need to think about is the reason behind the unique scoring system within the game, and why points are scored as 15, 30 and 40.

Here is all you need to know about the tennis scoring system ahead of the men’s singles final and how history has played a significant role in the rules of the sport.

Will Rafael Nadal secure a record 21st Grand Slam title on Sunday? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Rafael Nadal is after only his second Australian Open title on Sunday


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In tennis, the scoring goes from 0 to 15, 30 and then 40 in order to win a game.

And on first glance, you’d wonder why it doesn’t go from 30 to 45, instead of 30 to 40, in order to follow the multiples of 15.

It has left much confusion to many down the years and still to this day, very few people could probably tell you why if you were to ask them.

However, in an online debate run by the Guardian, a few readers were able to clarify the reasons behind this with a few theories, which involves a lot of French terminology.

One reader called Doug Gowan, from Hornsey, explained: “Tennis scores were shown in the middle ages on two clock faces which went from 0 to 60.

“On each score the pointer moved round a quarter from 0 to 15, 30, 45 and a win on 60. Somehow the forty five got truncated to forty when the clock faces dropped out of use.

“Zero was shown as an oval – an egg shape – ‘l’oeuf’ in French, giving us ‘love’ for no points. ‘Tennis’ probably derives from French ‘Tenez!'”

But there were further theories added to the debate, including one which explained how ‘forty-five’ was too long to say, and so ‘forty’ was used instead.

A general view of the scoreboard



Benjy Arnold, from London, said: “The scoring was originally done using a clock face – hence 0, 15, 30, 45. But 45 was too long to say so it was changed to 40.”

While Joe Myall, of Kurume, Japan, added: “It comes from the four quarters of a clock face. ’40’ was originally ’45’, but the ‘5’ was dropped over time; presumably three syllables spoilt the rhythm.”

Despite various theories, it seems quite a bizarre way in which to form the scoring system in tennis, but despite this, the rules have remained in place since the 1890s.

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