Australian Open introduce final-set tie-breaks
Matches which go the distance will be decided by a first-to-10-points tie-break at 6-6
Kevin Anderson celebrates his semi-final win against John Isner at Wimbledon last summer. It was longest ever semi-final in Grand Slam history lasting six hours and 35 minutes before Anderson won the fifth set 26-24. Photograph: Glynn Kirk/Reuters
The Australian Open has followed Wimbledon by introducing final-set tie-breaks for matches at next month’s tournament.
But, while Wimbledon will have a standard first-to-seven-points tie-break at 12-12, Australian Open matches which go the distance will be decided by a first-to-10-points tie-break at 6-6.
The US Open was the first Grand Slam to introduce final-set tie-breaks, with a first-to-seven-points game played at 6-6, meaning the three tournaments will all use a different format. The French Open is now the only slam to use a long deciding set.
The news comes at the end of a year where the divisions between tennis’ various governing bodies have become significantly more entrenched despite pledges to work together in the interests of the sport.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said the move came after the most extensive consultation in the Australian Open’s history.
He added: “We asked the players – both past and present – commentators, agents and TV analysts whether they wanted to play an advantage final set or not, and went from there.
“We went with a 10-point tie-break at six games all in the final set to ensure the fans still get a special finale to these often epic contests, with the longer tie-break still then allowing for that one final twist or change of momentum in the contest.
“This longer tie-break also can lessen some of the serving dominance that can prevail in the shorter tie-break. We believe this is the best possible outcome for both the players and the fans around the world.”
The longest Australian Open match in terms of games contested since the introduction of tie-breaks in the first four sets was played in the second round in 2017 when Ivo Karlovic defeated Horacio Zeballos 22-20 in the fifth set.
The 2019 tournament begins on January 14th.