New rule nixes never-ending final sets
Andy Roddick knows a thing or two about playing a tennis match that just won’t seem to end.
The Hall of Famer once won an Australian Open quarterfinal that ended 21-19 in the fifth set. He also lost a Wimbledon final against Roger Federer that went to 16-14 in the fifth set, a 2009 epic that Roddick says was “definitely the one I hear about the most and talk about the most and kind of think about the most.”
Those types of final sets are on the way out at Melbourne Park and the All England Club. The Australian Open and Wimbledon are finally doing what the US Open started doing decades ago: putting an end to final sets before they get out of hand. While some fans, and even players, might still like the idea that a match could go on and on and on forever — or seemingly forever — count Roddick among those who are just fine with the switch. One outcome is that each of the four Grand Slam tournaments now will resolve their lengthiest matches in a unique way, with the Australian Open — which begins on Monday in Melbourne — the only one opting for a firstto-10, win-by-two tiebreaker at sixall in a men’s fifth set or a women’s third set.
“You look back and everyone remembers those matches fondly, so I’m a little bit torn, but as a consumer of the sport, you have to know, at least within a semblance of a couple hours, how you’d even get through your day if you want to watch tennis,” Roddick said.
“Tennis is becoming more and more and more physical,” the 2003 US Open champion said, “so I’ll miss the long matches, but I think it’s a positive change.”
Already a subject of debate after John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut in a 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010, the issue reached a tipping point at the same tournament last year. Isner lost to Kevin Anderson in a 26-24 fifth set in the semifinals, pushing the conclusion of Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal into the following day and leaving Anderson compromised for the final.
“What John and Kevin did was amazing, but it was also impossible for a viewer to watch . ... It put the tournament into a real tough spot with Novak and Rafa not being able to finish that day,” Roddick said. “It causes a whole lot of problems.”