Wimbledon announce radical rule change to ensure matches finish ‘in an acceptable timeframe’

This year’s semi-final between John Isner and Kevin Anderson, which finished in a 26-24 final set, will be the last of its kind

Jack de Menezes
Friday 19 October 2018 12:07 BST
Wimbledon 2018: Kevin Anderson beats John Isner

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has announced that, as of 2019, matches that reach 12-12 in the final set at the Wimbledon Championships will now go to a tie-break in an effort to end never-ending matches, such as Kevin Anderson's mammoth victory over John Isner earlier this year.

The men’s semi-final between the pair became the second-longest match in Grand Slam history after lasting more than six-and-a-half hours, with the South African Anderson eventually prevailing in exhausting circumstances.

American Isner was also involved in the longest ever match recorded when he beat Nicolas Mahut in 2010, with their first round encounter at Wimbledon finishing in a 70-68 final set that spanned over three days.

But this year’s semi-final will be the last of its kind after the AELTC announced on Friday that, after considerable review of the last two decades at SW19 along with players and officials, a first-to-seven tie-break will be used when the scores reach 12-12 in the fifth set – though players must still have an advantage of two clear points as is used throughout all over sets under the previous rules.

“In reaching this decision, the AELTC Committee sought the feedback of both players and officials, analysed two decades of match data, and considered other factors including scheduling complexities and spectator experience,” said AELTC chairman Philip Brook.

“Our view was that the time had come to introduce a tie-break method for matches that had not reached their natural conclusion at a reasonable point during the deciding set. 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.

“As a next step, we look forward to sharing further details with our Grand Slam, ITF, WTA and ATP colleagues when we meet in Singapore.”

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