New rule nixes never-end­ing fi­nal sets

Observer on Saturday - - Sport -

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.”

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