Deuce in Tennis: Meaning, Origin, When to Use & Most Ever

Deuce in Tennis

Meaning, Origin, When to Use & Most Ever

Curious what “deuce” in tennis means? You’ve come to the right place – we’re covering everything you need to know and more.

As an integral part of the tennis scoring system, this term often confuses players who are new to the game, right along with the score of love. Luckily, understanding deuce isn’t straightforward. Let’s get to it.

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Deuce Score Meaning in Tennis

Deuce in Tennis: Meaning

In tennis, deuce refers to a tie score of 40 where either player needs to win by two points for the game to conclude.

For context, let’s take a quick look at the basic scoring system in a game

ScorePoint Value
Love0
151
302
403

As you can see, love equals zero, 15 equals one point, 30 equals two points, and 40 equals three points

When the score becomes tied at 15 or 30, the score is announced as 15-all or 30-all. However, tennis reserves the word Deuce for a tie at 40.

For reference, the word deuce in tennis is pronounced as ‘doos’ or alternatively ‘dyoos.’

Origin of Deuce: Etymology

The origin of deuce can be traced back to the Latin word for two, duos, or perhaps more appropriately the French word for two, deux, as tennis has its roots in France.

Beyond that, it’s unclear how the number two relates to the game in the context of scoring. However, one prevailing theory suggests it stems from the following French phrase: à deux le jeu.

Of course, one can interpret the translation of this phrase as ‘to both the game,’ meaning two players with equal chances of winning the game or ‘to two the game,’ referring to either player needing two points to win the game.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever know the true origin, but I’ll leave the official debate up to the tennis historians.

Fun Fact
Despite historians pinpointing the origin of tennis in France, they don’t use the word deuce at the French Open. Instead, you’ll hear the chair umpire state “égalité,” which translates to “equality.”

What Happens at Deuce?

When players reach a score of deuce, either player needs to win two consecutive points for the game to conclude. At this time, advantage scoring kicks in.

If the server wins the point at deuce, then the server holds the Advantage, they report the score as Advantage In or Ad In for short.

If the receiver wins the point at deuce, then the receiver holds the Advantage, and the score is reported as advantage out or ad out for short.

The game concludes when the player who holds the Advantage win the next point, otherwise, the score returns to deuce.

The Deuce & Ad Court

Deuce in Tennis: Deuce Court & Ad Court

Players and coaches often refer to either side of a tennis court as the ‘deuce court’ or the ‘ad court.’

The deuce court is the right side of the court, while the ad court is the left side of the court and they get their names because all deuce points start on the right side of the court and all ad points start on the left.

Most Deuces in a Game

What makes advantage scoring unique and entertaining is that there’s no limit to the number of times players can return to deuce.

Back in 1975 on May 26, at the Surrey Grass Court Championships at Surbiton, Anthony Fawcett and Keith Glass racked up a record 37 deuces in a single game for a grand total of 80 points.

Although it wasn’t timed, an account of the game from Keith, suggested a nearby ladies match featuring a friend of his, Judy Dawson, started and finished with a score of 6-0, 6-0 during this seemingly never-ending game.

Keith would go on to win the game and despite also winning the first set in a close tiebreaker, he’d lose the match to Anthony.

No Ad Scoring

Advantage scoring, where deuce, ad-in, and ad-out are in use, is the standard for competitive tennis, including the pro tour.

However, in practice or recreational tennis, players will sometimes forego ad scoring and play games that we refer to as no-ad scoring or sudden death.

In this case, the first player to win four points wins the game. If the score ties at deuce, the next person to win the point wins the game.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you leave this guide with a better understanding of the score of deuce in tennis. Of course, if you still have questions, we’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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10 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    Shouldn’t we avoid saying “deuce” at 40-40 when no-ad scoring is used? It makes no sense to me when people say “deuce” in this situation because two more points are not needed by anyone to win the game. I simply say “game point” because the winner of the game will be decided by the very next point.

    Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi Bob,

      Great question. The only place I’ve ever seen reference to this is in Section 7 of the ATP Rulebook:

      “For No-Ad scoring, when the score reaches deuce, the chair should announce: ‘Deuce, Deciding Point, Receiver’s Choice.'”

      I agree it’s a bit odd based on the origin and meaning behind the term that we’d use deuce in both scenarios. From a practical standpoint, I think it’s most important that it’s clear to all players regardless of what’s said, which they achieve with the chair’s required announcement.

      Similarly, I think your reference to the point as ‘game point’ makes it crystal clear as well.

      Thanks for sharing!

      All the best,
      Jon

      Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi Robin,

      Fair question – I’ll suppose we have to bucket the answer to in the realm of “that’s the way it is.”

      All the best,
      Jon

      Reply
  2. Mark Anderson
    Mark Anderson says:

    When I played tennis in school 40-50 years ago, we referred to 30-30 as “little deuce” and [later] as simply “deuce” as well. If you think about it, the same rule that one needs to win two more points (or, more accurately, to win to more points than one’s opponent) applies to 30-30 as well as 40-40.

    Reply
    • TennisCompanion
      TennisCompanion says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for sharing – that’s a fun way to announce the score at 30-all.

      I’ve never come across that, but that’s a bit before my time, so that may be why :)

      All the best,
      Jon

      Reply

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