Love at 40: What It Means in Tennis and How to Win

By Patrick

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If you’ve ever watched a tennis match, you’ve likely heard the server or returner be at “40 love”. For beginning tennis fans, this scoring term can be confusing. What exactly does 40 love mean in tennis? How do you get to 40 love, and why is it a desirable score?

In this article, we’ll break down the meaning of 40 love, its origins, and strategies for winning a game from 40 love. Read on to understand this common tennis phrase and up your own tennis game.

What Does 40 Love Mean in Tennis Scoring?

First, let’s cover some tennis scoring basics.

Tennis matches are made up of points, games, sets, and the overall match. Points are the most granular unit and make up a game. Games make up a set, and sets make up the match.

To win a point, you must successfully hit the ball into the opponent’s court so they cannot return it.

To win a game, you must win at least 4 points and be ahead of your opponent by 2 points. Games use the unique tennis scoring system of 15, 30, 40, game.

  • If you win the first point, the score is 15-0.
  • If you win the second point, it’s 30-0.
  • If you win the third point, it’s 40-0. This is called 40 love.
  • If you win one more point, you win the game.

Typically, the first player or team to win 6 games, by a margin of at least 2 games, wins the set. For example, 6-4 or 7-5. Then the match is decided by winning the best of 3 or 5 sets.

So in summary, 40 love means you have won the first 3 points of a game without the opponent scoring. You just need one more point to win the game. Reaching 40 love puts you in a commanding position to close out the game.

Why Is 40 Love Called “Love” in Tennis?

You may be wondering why 40 is called “love” in the first place. After all, love usually has positive, affectionate connotations. So why is a score of zero called love?

There are a few theories about the origin of the tennis term “love”:

  • It derives from the French word for egg, “l’oeuf”, because an egg looks like a zero. Tennis has French roots.
  • It comes from the Dutch word for zero, “lof”. This seems unlikely though, as tennis scoring didn’t originate in the Netherlands.
  • It refers to playing for love of the sport rather than money, as real tennis originally was played by upper-class elites. However, this is just speculation.
  • It represents the failure to score – zero points shows an “absence” of scoring, which can be associated with a lack of love.

The French word for egg hypothesis seems the most widely accepted, especially since other tennis terms like “deuce” also have French origins. But the exact etymology is still debated by historians and linguists.

Regardless of where it came from, “love” is now a standard tennis term for a score of zero. And 40 love simply means you’re one point away from decisively winning the game.

Step-By-Step: How to Get to 40 Love in a Tennis Game

Let’s walk through how a game typically progresses to a score of 40 love:

  • 1st point: The server player or team wins the first point, either through an ace, service winner, or by forcing their opponent into an error on the return. Score is 15-0.
  • 2nd point: The server dominates again and wins the second point as well, often through strong serving or aggressive court positioning, bringing the score to 30-0.
  • 3rd point: The server continues their hot streak and goes up 40-0, putting them one point away from winning the game at 40 love.

So a score of 40 love requires the server to win the first 3 points of the game without surrendering any points. While going up 40-0 doesn’t guarantee winning the next point, it puts the server in the driver’s seat to close out the game decisively.

Now let’s look at strategies to actually win at 40 love.

How to Win a Tennis Game from 40 Love

Reaching 40 love puts you right on the cusp of winning the game. Here are some tips to convert 40 love into a game win:

1. Stay focused and avoid complacency

The biggest mistake when up 40 love is letting your concentration lapse. Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal or get overconfident. Keep your mindset like the score is 0-0 to avoid any comeback.

2. Stick with what’s working

You clearly did something right to get to 40 love. Whether strong serves, quality returns, or forcing errors, keep your successful formula going. Don’t suddenly try new tactics that disrupt your rhythm.

3. Play high percentage tennis

This is not the time for low percentage drop shots or super risky winners. At 40 love, play a conservative, high-percentage game to close out the game. Go for solid serves and returns to force the issue.

4. Move forward aggressively

If you’re the server, follow your serve to the net to apply immediate pressure. If you’re the returner, move inside the baseline or approach the net to seize the initiative in the point.

5. Watch for desperation shots from your opponent

At 40 love down, your opponent may try low-percentage desperation shots like drop shots, moon balls, or hard flat drives. Expect this counterattack and be ready to move quickly.

6. Finish points decisively

When you get a look at a put-away shot like an overhead or swing volley, go for it. Don’t let your opponent work their way back into points once you get an advantage.

Executing these tips will make winning from 40 love much more straightforward. Playing proactively while avoiding mental letdowns will help convert 40 love leads into game wins.

Winning Tennis Matches: Develop a Victory Mindset

While winning from 40 love will clinate individual games, applying the right mindset and strategies is key to overall match victories. Here are some top techniques for triumphing in tennis matches:

Stay Focused and Positive

Like when up 40 love, maintain total concentration on every point, and don’t dwell on mistakes. Keep body language upbeat and reset quickly after losing points to maintain positivity. Avoid negative self-talk that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Play to Your Strengths

Maximize your A game. For example, big servers should pound heaters, baseliners should hug the baseline, and net rushers should poach often. Stick with your high percentage patterns to exploit your shots.

Force Your Opponent Into Errors

Push your opponent outside their comfort zone by mixing pace, spins, depths, and placement. Move them side-to-side and front-to-back to provoke weak replies you can put away.

Seize the Momentum

Capitalize when you capture momentum like going up a break in a set or winning a long rally. Ride waves of momentum by letting loose on your shots.

Stay Physically and Mentally Strong

Hydrate, eat energy gels, and breathe rhythmically during changeovers. Block out distractions, play point-by-point, and use positive self-talk and imagery like picturing shot targets. Maintain strength from start to finish.

These winning tactics will help you record more 40 love games on the road to match victories.

In Closing

Understanding tennis scoring is key to following and playing the game well. 40 love means you’ve won the first three points of a game and are one point away from winning it. Reaching 40 love requires dominating the point-by-point action.

Converting 40 love leads into game wins requires playing smart, proactive tennis while avoiding mental miscues. Then replicating that mindset across sets and matches will lead to more wins on the court.

So now that you know the ins and outs of 40 love, you can leverage that knowledge on the court. Stay focused, play consistent high-percentage tennis, and demonstrate your love for the sport. Keep practicing those serves, groundstrokes, and volleys too. You’ll be winning more games and matches from 40 love before you know it!

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