Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Davis Cup fifth set tie-breaker rule to change in 2016

Published:Friday | October 16, 2015 | 10:00 AMLeroy Brown
Isner

One of the most long-standing and controversial rules in Davis Cup tennis, that the tie-breaker cannot be used in the fifth set of a match, will be changed in 2016.

This was one of the major changes made at the annual general meeting of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on September 25 in Santiago, Chile, at which a new president, David Haggerty of the United States, was elected to lead the ITF for the next four years. He succeeds Francesco Ricci Bitti from Italy, who served as president for 16 years.

The local tennis fraternity has hailed the rule, and former Davis Cup player and captain, Richard Russell, told The Gleaner that he is " happy that the change has come about" and said further that "this should have happened a long time ago".

The fifth set no tie-breaker rule has been a sore point in Davis Cup tennis for many years as the tie-breaker is used in all sets except the fifth and final set. Russell recalls, however, that there was a time when there was no tie-break rule, and how this made matches go on and on. He, himself, he told The Gleaner was involved in a doubles match that lasted over five hours.

A new high was reached in Davis Cup tennis in March this year when Leonardo Mayer from Argentina defeated Joao Souza from Brazil, in a singles match that lasted six hours and 43 minutes. The final set in that match, lasted two hours and 30 minutes, and it is believed that this strengthened the case for those administrators who wanted the change to be made.

The goal in a tie-breaker, after the score reaches 6-6, is to score seven points first. To win the set, a player has to win the tie-breaker by two points. Without the tie-breaker, the match goes on until one player leads by two games.

Only tie-breaker

Of interest is the fact that the only Grand Slam tournament that has a final-set tie-breaker rule at this time is the US Open. They have been using it there since 1970, but at Wimbledon, the Australian, and French Grand Slam tournaments, play has to go on in the final set until one player leads by two games.

The longest match in history was at Wimbledon on June 4, 2010, when John Isner defeated Nicholas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 in 11 hours and five minutes over a three-day period. The final set lasted eight hours and 11 minutes. Not surprisingly, Isner was so tired for his next match against Thiemo de Bakker - that he lost it in 74 minutes, 0-6, 3-6, 2-6.