Welcome to Wimbledon's world of Alice in Wonderland

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The Independent Online

Tennis is a game in which love counts nothing, deuces are wild and the scoring system was invented by Lewis Carroll.

The annual ritual of Wimbledon apart it has never made much headway with the public at large, and I think I know why. The guys who invented it clearly wanted to keep out anybody who couldn't do square roots. You don't play it, you compute it. Data systems with nets.

Why would you guess the first point would be scored 15? The second, 30? And the third, 40? If you spot a trend there, go straight to the Theory of Relativity.

Six games win a set. But only if you stay two games ahead of your opponent. Why? You can win a cricket game by one run, a game of football by one goal, a fight by one punch.

Tennis weaves around in the upper reaches of calculus. My guess is it was made up by guys who trap a spun coin on the back of one hand and tell you that you lost. My theory is that the kings kept rigging the game until the peasants got a headache. The scoring system is so arcane, just short of logarithms, that joining tennis is like joining the House of Lords. It's really not a sport, it's a club, like the Masons.

The game is as old as the Pharaohs but it never really got out of the palaces. For thousands of years, everyone who played it wore or was white, and had a whole string of hyphens in his name or was a baron or an earl. There wasn't anyone in it didn't have two or more syllables in his first name

I don't know why there should be a score like 40-40 in the first place, but how it adds up to deuce, I leave for Alice in Wonderland to figure out.

Are all those obscure definitions really necessary? I mean, it may look to you like some guy or gal just hitting the damn ball but to them it's a drop volley or groundstroke (which, by the way, is just hitting a bouncing ball).

Why should you get two serves? The service ace is probably the most single boring thing in sports, but tennis encourages it by giving you a mulligan, so you can go for it on the first serve. I wonder what king thought that one up?

Who do you suppose started the let ball. The let that ticks the net is silly enough. If a guy can't keep his service from skidding off the top of the net - well, too bad. He should play it as it lies. But the let - played when a point is in dispute or the umpire didn't get a good look at it - is really laughable. Imagine a close call in cricket where the umpire frowns, bites his lip, appeals to others, and then says, "OK, everybody back to where they were. We're going to play a let on that."

Some years ago, a man named Jimmy Van Alen came along with a system for simplifying the game. They gave him short shrift. Thing is they don't want to make it decipherable to lorry drivers. God knows manners are in enough trouble these days without tampering with something sacred like tennis.

But they did adopt - with a pained look - something called the tie-break, a modified version of a Van Alen innovation. This is tennis's version of showdown poker. You play it at a stately, ritualistic gavotte pace till the score is 6-6, and then you give each side a lot of free punches at each other. The point is, if they can do this on the try line, so to speak, why not on the kick-off?

The scoring system in most sports could not be easier to understand. A converted try in rugby puts seven points on the board. If the ball reaches the boundary in cricket add four runs to the batting team's score. If it clears the fence, add six. Fighters are marked out of 10 for every round. If you can't figure out the scoring system in football you are wasting your time watching.

When the fuzz ball flies at Wimbledon I plan to watch armed with my own simplified scoring system. Each player gets one point a winner, no more and no less. I'll keep the game in my mathematical range, not Einstein's.