The Australian Open has introduced a tiebreaker for final sets, joining Wimbledon and the US Open as the only Grand Slam events with the final-set-tiebreak rule.
The new rule, which will take effect from January, 2019 when the tournament kicks off down under, will see matches tied at 6-6 in the final set move into a tiebreak, with the first player reaching 10 points with a difference of two winning the match.
The US Open was the first Major to introduce final-set tie-breaks, with a first-to-seven-points game played at 6-6. Wimbledon, in October, announced that it will have a first-to-seven-points tie-break at 12-12. For the Australian Open, though, matches which go the distance will be decided by a first-to-10-points tie-break at 6-6. The French Open is now the only Major to use a long deciding set.
The decision, according to the Tournament Director, Craig Tiley, was taken after the most extensive consultation in the tournament’s history.
“We asked the players, both past and present, commentators, agents and TV analysts whether they wanted to play an advantage final set or not, and went from there.
“We went with a 10-point tie-break at six games all in the final set to ensure the fans still get a special finale to these often epic contests, with the longer tie-break still then allowing for that one final twist or change of momentum in the contest.
“This longer tie-break also can lessen some of the serving dominance that can prevail in the shorter tie-break. We believe this is the best possible outcome for both the players and the fans around the world.”
Final-set tiebreaks have been put in place to reduce the possibilities of incredibly long hours players could spend on court in a deciding set in Grand Slam tournaments.
In 2010, John Isner was involved in the longest match in tennis history when the American beat France’s Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final set of their first-round match. That final set alone lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes.
This year, in the semifinals at Wimbledon, Isner again was locked in a three-hour final-set battle with Kevin Anderson, with Anderson eventually winning the final set 26-24. The match which lasted for six hours and 36 minutes, turned out to be the second longest in Wimbledon history and third-longest in tennis history.
The new rule will apply to qualifying, men’s and women’s singles, doubles, mixed doubles, junior singles and doubles, wheelchair singles and doubles and quads.
The Australian Open will serve off January 14 – 27 at Melbourne Park.