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Tennis Love - What it Means & When to Use It

Love In Tennis: What It Means and How to Use It

Tennis Terminology

By Jon Crim

Curious what the term love means in tennis? We’ve got you covered. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

While you’re here, you may also want to check out our article on the score of deuce in tennis or our complete article on tennis scoring.

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What Does Love Mean in Tennis Scoring?

Love in the tennis scoring system translates to a score of zero within a single game. For example, if you’re serving and you win the first point of a game, then the score would be 15-love.

With that in mind, let’s do a quick review of how the score of love fits into a single game by outlining the point system quickly.

  • Love: a score of zero
  • 15: a single point
  • 30: two points
  • 40: three points
  • Deuce: tied at 3 points
  • Ad in: when the person serving wins a point at deuce; the score is ad in, or advantage in
  • Ad out: when the person serving loses a point a deuce; the score is ad out, or advantage out

Players use the term “all” to express when the score is even at one or two points, i.e., 15-all or 30-all.

While the definition of love is simple, it can still trip players up. Let’s take a closer look at some examples with the score of love.

When to Use Love Scoring

There are only a few scenarios where we use the score of love in tennis, so let’s take a look at those. Here are the possible scores with love if you were serving, as you’d be calling out your score first.

  • 15-love
  • 30-love
  • 40-love

Here are the possible scores with love if your opponent is serving, where they’d be calling the score out first.

  • Love-15
  • Love-30
  • Love-40

Typically, players will use the term love to express a score of zero within a game.

If you’re playing a set and you win the first three games, then it’s perfectly acceptable to call out a score of three to zero. Calling out the score of three-love is acceptable too.

Example Tennis Scores With Love

To bring more context to the score of love, let’s walk through a few examples so you can see how it works.

Let’s imagine you’re going to play two games with a friend, and you’ll start the first game serving. Remember, as the server, you’ll always call out your points first.

  • You win the first point: 15-love
  • You win the second point: 30-love
  • You win the third point: 40-love
  • Your win the fourth point: you win the game

Your friend is now serving for the second game, so they’ll call out their serve first this time.

  • You win the first point: love-15
  • You win the second point: love-30
  • Your friend wins the third point: 15-30
  • Your friend wins the fourth point: 30-all
  • You win the fifth point: 30-40
  • Your friend wins the sixth point: deuce
  • You win the seventh point: ad out
  • Your friend wins the eighth point: deuce
  • You win the ninth point: ad out
  • You win the next point: game


When starting a new game, the score is technically love-all or zero to zero. However, players do not report the score of the current game when a new game starts. Instead, the player serving will say the score in games for the current set.

As a result, players never use the score of love-all. The only appropriate time to even consider using that score would be before the first point of a match, which again is unnecessary.

Origin of the Term Love in Tennis

While the origin of the term “love” in tennis remains a bit of a mystery, there are two commonly shared ideas.

The first, and less likely, would be that the term love is an adaptation of the French word l’oeuf, which translates to egg or the shape of a 0. This reference doesn’t hold much water and is considered an unlikely origin.

There is a stronger belief the score of love originates from the phrase “to play for love” (of the game). In other words, to not play for nothing.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you found this article helpful. Have any thoughts or questions you’d like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

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