Why Final-Set Tiebreakers in Tennis Are a Problem and a Solution
The decision from Tennis Australia to go with a tie-breaker of 10 points at the start of the Australian Open in 2019 is very innovative. However, it impairs an already amazing lack of consistency among the tournaments in the Grand Slam. It also makes the scoring system more confusing to tennis fans that don’t watch on a constant basis.
The 10-point system, also referred to as the ‘Super-Tiebreaker’, is nearly identical to the 7-point system which is currently used to determine a set when matches reach 6-all. It’s also used during a third-set in doubles when it comes to matches in the ATP World Tour. The only difference is that the overall winner is required to reach 10 points as opposed to 7 points by a margin of 2.
Tennis Australia’s Decision
Tennis Australia, in a statement, splendidly declared that their decision was made following one of the most extensive consultations in the history of the tournament with officials, analysts, agents, and players. Is the confusion created behind this decision worth the difference it will have on the court or are the Aussies simply trying to reclaim the high ground they so cherish?
In the statement, Craig Tiley, the tournament director of the Australian Open, stated: “We decided on the 10-point tiebreak system at 6 games all during the final set, ensuring fans will still be able to get a phenomenal finale to these frequent epic events, with the longer tiebreaker still providing that one final change or twist of momentum at the end of the tournament. The extended tiebreaker will also assist in lessening the serving dominance that prevails during the shorter tiebreak.”
Well, if the target is to provide a final twist in the tournament, why not increase it to a 12 or 14-point tiebreaker? There’s actually no end to this. The tiebreaker itself is the last twist to end the match. However, the larger problem is there is no consistency when you look at the Grand Slams.
The French Open and US Open
The only major where the final set is still played until one player wins by 2 games is the French Open. The US Open has managed to use the 7-point tiebreaker for decades when the final set produces 6-all. In October earlier this year, Wimbledon stated that they will start using the 7-point tiebreaker during the final sets in 2019. However, this will only occur when the score manages to reach 12-all in matches.
Although the French Open clay courts are conducive to long matches and rallies, the soft surface doesn’t punish a player’s joints when compared to the hard courts and it also doesn’t need as much bending and lunging as grass. Paris weather is also quite cool which is another plus. There hasn’t been any outcry in Paris for a longer final-set tiebreaker either. The players seem quite content with the US Open tiebreaker but that’s only because they had time to get used to it over the years.