A Clockwork Love How tennis got its scoring

Why does tennis refer to zero as love?

When a player is unable to score in tennis, and has a big 0 up on the score board, players and fans have coined the terms "bagel" "donut" and most popularly "goose egg." In France, one of the earliest countries to adapt the sport, the word for goose egg is 'L'ouef,' which is easy to see, through years of mispronunciation, that the term eventually just became 'love.' I can just imagine Rene Lacoste (Inventor of the Polo shirt, professional tennis player, nicknamed "The crocodile." You may have heard of his clothing company) and the Four Musketeers of tennis walking away from a match, one of them says "Oh man, that guy left a whole lotta l'ouef out on the court today," and his opponent overhearing and getting aggressive, to which they respond "Hey man relax, he just said you left a lot of love on the court today!

This guy is obviously a huge 1920s tennis fan

So after love comes...15??

Tennis has been around a long time, modern Lawn Tennis was created in Britain in the 1870s, but it similar sports date back quite a few centuries earlier. Jeu de Paume, a ball-hand game created in France, might have predated tennis' strange scoring. The 10,000 Jeu de Paume courts in France were 90 feet long, 45 on either side. When a player would score his first point, he would love up 15 feet, then another 15 after the second point, 30. After the third point, the player would only move up 10 feet so as to not be right on top of the net, so he would have moved up 40 feet in all. Thus creating the base for tennis' point system, with deuce describing a tie at 40.

Another popular theory explaining the scoring also originated in France. Most courts would have had a clock with a large face on it, assisting players with keeping track of the score. Though it doesn't really explain why the players would use 40 instead of 45, some assume it came from 40 not being as easily confused with another number when yelled out.


Created with images by Engel62 - "borkum commercial street tennis court" • Sangre-La.com - "ji5393.JPG" • schuey - "the lacoste tatoo on my chest" • Jacopo Marcovaldi - "Tower Bell"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.