How long is a tennis match?

The Longest Match

Asking how long a tennis match is could be compared to asking how long a piece of string is where context dictates everything.

The basic scoring system for tennis is no respecter of time and has created problems for the sport’s organisation.

It is also the reason it is so hard to nail down exactly how long a tennis match will take.

The professional tours have introduced innovations like shot clocks to make sure that players don’t play at an excessively sedentary pace.

In tennis the peculiar scoring system of the game makes sure that no match is really ever identical and technically can go on forever and ever without end.

Tennis doesn’t have a cut-off time for a game to be completed and once players get to deuce they can go back and forth until the end of their days in some sort of nightmare scenario.

Generally speaking something has to and usually does give in tennis.

The most infamous example of a match that didn’t seem to want to end was the first round contest between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at the 2010 Championships Wimbledon.

Isner and Mahut spent over 11 hours on court across three days of play and split 183 games which is a record that now cannot be broken because of restrictions placed on Grand Slams with all sets now having to be settled by a tiebreak once they are locked at 6-6.

Deuce is at the heart of a tennis match’s ability, regardless of set or match length, to simply continue on and on until one player manages to finally win the game.

When players reach a score of deuce (both players having an even number of points won in the game exceeding or equal to three points each), either player needs to win two consecutive points for the game to conclude. At a time like this, the advantage scoring kicks in.

If the server wins the point at deuce, then the server holds the Advantage, the score is reported or recorded as Advantage In or Ad In for short.

If the receiver then wins the point at deuce, then the receiver holds the Advantage, and the score is reported as Advantage out or ad out for short.

A tennis match can end prematurely if one player is unable to continue playing but the record for the shortest professional match that was deemed to have been completed was Francisco Clavet’s win at Shanghai in the first round of the 2001 Heineken Open Shanghai when he defeated Jiang Shan in just 25 minutes.

In the most basic terms then one might expect that a tennis match can take anywhere between 25 minutes and three days to complete.

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