The End of an Era! Wimbledon Introduces Game-Changing Tiebreaker Rule to Curb Marathon Matches

Wimbledon joins the U.S. Open as the second Grand Slam tournament to implement the change

Britain Wimbledon Tennis, London, United Kingdom - 04 Jul 2018
Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Shutterstock

Wimbledon is putting an end to marathon matches.

In a news release on Friday, the All-England Lawn Tennis Club — which hosts Wimbledon — introduced a final-set tiebreaker beginning in 2019.

The tie-breaker will be played when the score reaches 12-12 in the fifth set. The first player or team to score seven points, with an advantage of two or more points, will be declared the winner.

A tennis match at Wimbledon consists of five sets. In the first four sets, if both players or teams are tied at six games a piece, a tiebreaker game will determine the winner of the set. However, before this rule change, the final set in a match at Wimbledon could be played until a player reached a two-game advantage over their opponent. This led to some lengthy matches.

In 2010, America’s John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in Grand Slam history. It lasted over the course of three days.

Isner, 33, won with a final score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7 (7–9), 7–6 (7–3), 70–68. This match eventually inspired the HBO mockumentary 7 Days in Hell, starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harington.

Isner also took part in the second-longest Wimbledon match just last year, losing the semifinal round to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 26-24.

Isner hilariously respond to the announcement on Twitter, sharing a gif to mark the occasion.

AELTC Chairman Philip Brook explained in the news release, “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.”

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The rule will apply to all events across qualifying, gentlemen’s, ladies’, mixed and junior singles and doubles. Wheelchair and quad wheelchair events will not be affected.

Wimbledon will join the U.S. Open as the second Grand Slam tournament to use tiebreakers in all sets.

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