Bat­tle within a bat­tle: the great­est tiebreak­ers


Let’s harken back to some mem­o­rable do­or­die tiebreak­ers that made his­tory and brought point­by­point agony and ec­stasy, de­pend­ing on whom you rooted for.

In 1970, Jimmy Van Alen, a New Eng­land aris­to­crat with rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas, cre­ated the game’s first ma­jor scor­ing in­no­va­tion, the tiebreaker. This has made an epochal im­pact on ten­nis. No longer would worn­out fans have to sit through marathon sets and matches that ex­hausted play­ers. Hence­forth, tiebreak­ers would shorten matches and pro­vide com­pact, thrilling cli­maxes.

The “sud­den death” best five­of­nine­points tiebreaker made its Grand Slam de­but at the 1970 US Open, and ten­nis was never the same again. While spec­ta­tors, tour­na­ment sched­ule­mak­ers, and tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tives loved it, many play­ers, at least ini­tially, didn’t.

Dur­ing the 1970s, the best seven­of­12points tiebreaker was adopted, and play­ers quickly ac­cepted this much­fairer ver­sion.

The US Open, how­ever, was the only ma­jor tour­na­ment to im­ple­ment the tiebreaker for the de­cid­ing set. The other three Slams con­tinue to re­vert to tra­di­tional scor­ing in the fifth set of men’s matches.

Wim­ble­don and the Aus­tralian Open are now re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing in­tro­duc­ing fifth­set tiebreak­ers to re­duce marathon matches, while the French Open has no plans to aban­don the tra­di­tional for­mat.

At the 2010 Wim­ble­don, John Is­ner out­lasted Ni­co­las Mahut in an in­sanely long 70­6■ fifth set. This year Kevin An­der­son over­came an ex­hausted, stag­ger­ing Is­ner 26­24 in the fifth set at Wim­ble­don, prompt­ing for­mer cham­pion John Mcen­roe to say, “Maybe, just maybe, this will be the match that gets the rule changed.”

Let’s harken back to some mem­o­rable do­or­die tiebreak­ers that made his­tory and

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