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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tennis: Doing Away With Tiebreaks

Not all tennis matches go on till the last set and not all deciders go on till the tiebreak. Some of the tournaments (the French Open is one) have done away with the tiebreak and the winner is decided based on a 2 game margin in the final set. Knowing the energy levels of some of the players, we could very well end up seeing epic matches like the scores mentioned below:

No. 26-seeded Jose Acasuso and No. 32 Nicolas Massu won five-setters. Acasuso edged Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6, 11-9 in a match suspended in the final set on Sunday because of darkness. Massu outlasted Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 9-7.

I thought that it might be beneficial to the tournament organizer and the player(s) if the match is decided using a tiebreak. Like the penalty shoot-out in football, the tiebreak in tennis provides a verdict in the shortest possible time. By doing so, the players need not burn out during the prelim stages of a tournament. They could save their best for the final stages of the tournament. It is better if this rule is applied from the quarter-final or the semi-final stage as the stakes are pretty high. If you look at the first match mentioned above, a total of 52 games have been played in a first round match. I thought there would be some compelling reason behind this rule and got hold of a Columbia University research paper (in PDF form) which concludes that the tiebreak is generally beneficial for the less consistent player.


  • The rule of avoiding tie-breaks in the 5th set is being adhered to by all Grand Slams and not just the French Open. But there are some ATP tournaments where this rule is not followed. (Cant recall the names though)

    Winning a Grand Slam is all about the level of skill & endurance you can consistently maintain over a 2-week period and so I agree with avoiding tie-breaks, right from the first round matches. That way, the player with a better stamina & endurance will prevail. BTW, do you know if 5th set tiebreaks are avoided in the qualifying rounds of a Grand Slam too?

    By Blogger Filbert, at 1:21 AM  

  • I thought that in Tennis the deciding set is always determined by a 2-game margin and not a tie-break.

    I remember some player was involved in some crazy score in the last set (like 32-30) or something. The match was played over more than one day.

    By Anonymous Ash, at 6:13 AM  

  • --- I thought there would be some compelling reason behind this rule---

    Good catch Kaps! Folks research all kinds of stuff :-))

    (OTOH, how come you have both moderation & word verification ;-) Daya karo boss... if possible, rm verify process :-D)

    By Blogger Boston Bala, at 7:10 AM  

  • @Filbert,
    The US Open also has tiebreaks. French Open qualifiers / prelim rounds don't have tiebreaks in the decider.

    Each tournament has a different rule. it is either a tiebreak or a two set margin.

    Have removed comment moderation now. let's see how it works :-)

    By Blogger Kaps, at 3:15 PM  

  • It may cause player burn-out, but these guys are pro's and are expected to have such long games. But the after-effect of such long matches are bad for them, remember the half-a-day long australian open match between el-ayanoui and roddick, the winner lost the next match, which was played the very next day!

    By Blogger Selva, at 7:33 PM  

  • Hi,

    It's in vogue for long time...It's pretty much there in other grand slams as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:35 AM  

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