A Curious Term in a Competitive Game

At the heart of any competitive match lies passion, determination, and, interestingly, love.

But in racket sports, the term love isn’t about affection. It signifies something entirely different, a zero score.

Let’s explore the intriguing origin of the term, its usage, and why it holds a unique spot in the lexicon of racket sports.

Decoding Love in Racket Sports

For anyone new to tennis, badminton, or any racket sport, hearing the referee announce “fifteen-love” or “love-forty” can be puzzling. Why use such an endearing term in the middle of a fierce rally or serve? Well, love in this context means a player has a score of zero.

The Enigmatic Origins

The origin of the term love to signify zero has been a matter of much speculation and debate. One popular theory suggests that the term derives from the French word for egg, “l’oeuf,” since an egg looks like the number zero. Over time, “l’oeuf” may have been phonetically misinterpreted as “love.” Another theory posits that love was used because a player who is yet to score is playing solely for the love of the game, not points.

Using Love in Racket Sports

  1. Starting the Match: Every racket match begins at “love-all.” Both players or teams start without points, eager to leave their mark on the scoreboard.
  2. Mid-Game Announcements: If a player has ten points in a game of table tennis and the opponent has none, the score reads as “ten-love.” Similarly, in tennis, scores like “love-fifteen” or “thirty-love” are common when one player is yet to get on the scoreboard.
  3. Complete Shutouts: If a player wins a game without the opponent scoring a point, it’s often said they won “to love,” indicating a dominant performance.

When to Use the Term Love

  1. Score Announcements: This is the most common usage, indicating that a player or team hasn’t scored in that game.
  2. Commentary: Sportscasters often use “love” when describing a player’s performance or the game’s progression.
  3. Casual Conversations: Fans and players alike might use “love” to describe a past match, a player’s performance, or potential game outcomes.


In the competitive arena of racket sports, love isn’t about romance but about a score and, more importantly, the spirit of the game.

While it technically means a player hasn’t scored, love epitomizes the passion and determination that players bring to the court, regardless of the scoreboard.

It’s a testament to the unpredictability of sports, where scores can change in a heartbeat and where the love for the game trumps all.

So, the next time you hear “fifteen-love” or “love-all,” remember – it’s not just about the points; it’s about the heart and soul that players pour into every serve, rally, and shot.