In Tennis, Love Means Nothing

Dan Scheuler, my Estonian tennis coach growing up, used to always say this to me in several different contexts. Before I describe them, I will give the reader a little background on tennis scoring in case they are not familiar with the sport.

First of all, scoring in tennis makes NO SENSE. The first person to win 4 points wins the game. However, instead of counting by 0s, 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s (like almost every other sport), tennis is scored in increments of Love, 15, 30, 40, and deuce. As you can infer, “Love” is equivalent to zero in tennis terms.

This fact has given rise to many jokes, puns, and proverbs in the sport of tennis. I happened to first hear this one from my childhood coach Dan Scheuler. As you can imagine, this proverb can be used in a number of fashions.

My coach’s most common implementation of this proverb was to mock me when I would have to miss practices. He would scold me the next day in a thick Estonian accent, “Andrew, why do you keep going on dates during our training? Haven’t I told you that in tennis love means nothing?!

I had not heard this saying for several years until this March, when I was out on the court with a friend of mine who is from Northern California. I lamented to him that I had once dreamed of playing professional tennis, truly loved the sport, but was never skilled enough to make it. He joked back, “Andrew, don’t you know? In tennis love means nothing”. In this case, the proverb was used to describe a deficiency in physical ability, which is quite different from my old coach’s preferred use.

These two examples of the proverb “In Tennis, Love means nothing” illustrate that variability of use that proverbs often possess. In addition to changing in physical form throughout time, proverbs’ meanings permutate with time and location.

This proverb is also notable because it is an excellent example of a “tailored proverb”. These proverb are not applicable to everyone. Only a select group of individuals comprehends and is inherently tied to its meaning. There is a place for both these and widely relatable proverbs in modern culture.