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Wimbledon to introduce tie-breaks at 12-12 in the final set from 2019

Hannah Wilks in News 19 Oct 2018
  • Wimbledon to introduce final set tie-breaker from 2019
  • A tie-break will be played if the score reaches 12-12 in the final set
  • Decision follows epic men's semifinal and consequent schedule disruption in 2018
Wimbledon to introduce a tie-breaker in the fifth set at 12-12, ending the possibility of marathon serving contests like the one between Kevin Anderson and John Isner in the semifinals of The Championships 2018 (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Wimbledon will implement a final-set tie-breaker from 2019.

In the wake of the longest Wimbledon men's semifinals on record, the All England Club has announced that a tie-breaker will be introduced in the final set of all matches from 2019.

The tie-break will be played when the score reaches 12-12, as opposed to being played at 6-6, as in other sets. 

The statement from the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), who run Wimbledon, said that the decision was '[i]nformed by a thorough review of match data from the past 20 Championships, and upon consultation with players and officials'.

John Isner, Nicolas Mahut and umpire Mohamed Lahyani after the conclusion of their 2010 match which lasted 11 hours and five minutes (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
All four Grand Slams - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open - play a tie-break at 6-6 in most sets of the match. But until now, only the US Open has played a tie-break in the final set of the match. 

Conventional wisdom holds that a player should have to break serve in order to win a match. 

But the fast grass courts of Wimbledon, which favour big servers, have seen a number of unusually long matches played with damaging consequences for the following rounds of the tournament. Long matches can have a knock-on effect on the schedule which disrupts other matches, and players who have competed in an extended battle are often physically compromised for the next round. 

Both issues were demonstrated at The Championships in 2018, which saw the two longest men's semifinals ever contested. The semifinal between Kevin Anderson and John Isner, which Anderson won 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24, lasted six hours and 36 minutes - the second-longest match ever played at Wimbledon after the famous 2010 match between Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which ended 70-68 in the fifth set and lasted 11 hours and five minutes, the longest tennis match in history.

Anderson, who had beaten Roger Federer in a five-set duel in the quarterfinals which ended 13-11 in the fifth set, and Isner both called for the no-tie break rule to be reexamined.

Kevin Anderson struggled to perform his best in the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic (TIM IRELAND/AFP/Getty Images)
The second semifinal between eventual champion Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was also an extended contest. As a result it had to be finished on Saturday, which is usually reserved for the women's singles final, and the women's singles final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber did not have an exact start time.

AELTC Chairman Philip Brook said: 'In reaching this decision, the AELTC Committee sought the feedback of both players and officials, analysed two decades of match data, and considered other factors including scheduling complexities and spectator experience.

'Our view was that the time had come to introduce a tie-break method for matches that had not reached their natural conclusion at a reasonable point during the deciding set. While we know the instances of matches extending deep into the final set are rare, we feel that a tie-break at 12-12 strikes an equitable balance between allowing players ample opportunity to complete the match to advantage, while also providing certainty that the match will reach a conclusion in an acceptable timeframe.'

The new tie-break at 12-12 will be implemented across men's and women's main-draw and qualifying singles matches as well as men's, women's and mixed doubles.

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Wimbledon to introduce tie-breaks at 12-12 in the final set from 2019

Wimbledon authorities announced the introduction of a final-set tie-break if the score reaches 12-12, to be implemented from 2019, in the wake of epic men's matches at the 2018 Championships

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