Wimbledon: final-set tie-breaks to be introduced in 2019

New rule will come in when the deciding set is tied at 12-12

Kevin Anderson beat John Isner in an epic semi-final at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships
Kevin Anderson beat John Isner in an epic semi-final at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has announced that final-set tie-breaks will be introduced at next year’s Wimbledon Championships.

Applying to all events at The Championships, the tie-break will come into effect when the scores reach 12-12 in the final set.

The fifth set in this year’s men’s singles semi-final between Kevin Anderson and John Isner lasted almost three hours, the BBC reports. South African Anderson finally secured the victory after winning the deciding set 26-24.

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American player Isner was also part of the longest match in Wimbledon history when he beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. The final set in their 2010 clash finished 70-68 in Isner’s favour.

In a statement the AELTC said it made the decision after reviewing data from the past 20 Championships and consulting with players and officials.

“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,” said AELTC chairman Philip Brook.

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“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 time-frame.”

The winner of the final-set tie-break will be the first player to reach seven points with an advantage of two or more points. Men play the best of five sets while women play the best of three.

As The Daily Telegraph explains, Wimbledon will not be the first grand slam to bring in tie-breaks in the final set. The Telegraph’s Simon Briggs wrote: “The Australian Open and French Open do not yet have a deciding-set tie-break, making it possible for matches to go on indefinitely, while the US Open plays a tie-break at 6-6 as in earlier sets.”

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The Independent’s Jack de Menezes said it was a “radical rule change” while The Guardian’s Sean Ingle said Wimbledon has “finally bowed to pressure” to put an end to the marathon matches.

The New York Times tennis writer Christopher Clarey tweeted: “Delighted to see Wimbledon’s decision to introduce a final-set tiebreaker at 12-12, beginning in 2019. Long been an advocate of this. Strikes a good balance between preserving tradition & giving players a chance moving forward (and no one was breaking Isner-Mahut record anyway).”

How tennis players and fans reacted on Twitter:

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