With no clock in tennis, matches can vary in length considerably. No one knows going in just how long a match will last, but there are some ways to at least predict the average length.
How long do tennis games last? The average length of a tennis match is 97 minutes. However, since tennis games aren’t limited to a specific time frame, some matches only last 40 minutes, while others can last over 3 hours. Length is mostly dependent on the number of sets a tennis match actually goes, with most of them falling in the range of 40 to 60 minutes.
How Long Does a Best-Of-Three Set Match Last?
Throughout most levels of tennis, a match is played best-of-three sets. This means that the first side to win two sets wins the match. This format works not only to help people keep in shape throughout the match and tournament, but it makes things a lot more predictable with time.
In a best-of-three sets match, there are fewer variables that will alter the full match’s time. Everyone knows that it will at least last two sets, with a potential of just one extra set.
This type of setup makes the most sense for everyone involved during most events. There are many instances where a tournament or even a television schedule falls off the rails completely because one match lasts an incredibly long time.
It is much more likely that everything will stay on time (at least to a certain degree) in a best-of-three sets format. You have a chance at a third set, but that usually adds less than an hour to the match at most.
The lopsided matches in a best-of-three format still take at least 30 to 45 minutes. Even if the two players are nowhere near each other in skill, it takes time to win a minimum of 48 points to win two sets.
On the other side of things, a competitive three-set match can go well over three hours. The tiebreak at the end of the set certainly helps, as the older format in some cases relied on one player winning by two games in the final set.
How Long Does a Five-Set Tennis Match Last?
There is something special about a best-of-five setup played by the men at Grand Slams. These are the only instances where this format is used, turning the Grand Slams into a battle of skill and endurance. Fans love the extra bit of drama that it brings.
Unfortunately, a best-of-five-set match is incredibly unpredictable with total time, meaning a fan could be locking into a match that lasts five hours or more.
Even if a matchup is entirely lopsided, the match still needs three sets to declare a winner. It is doubtful that any best-of-five sets match will end in less than 90 minutes. When it becomes unpredictable is if the match is not a straight-set victory.
Anything lasting four sets or more like pushes to at least the 3 hours mark. That is because there is at least one extra set, and it is assumed that at least one of those sets was pretty competitive and took a long time.
The marathon matches often last five sets, as that can be something that goes on for hours and hours. A five-set match brings all sorts of drama at the Grand Slams, but it often throws off the entire schedule in the process.
Tiebreaks Make Matches Last Longer
It took a while, but it is now inching closer to being universal that every major has a tiebreak situation set up to prevent matches from going extremely long. There used to be a time where the fifth set needed to be played out until one player had a lead of two. Now, heading into a tiebreak ensures that the match comes to a close sooner rather than later. At least, everywhere but the French Open.
The second to last hold out was Wimbledon, as they were the host of the longest match ever. At the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, John Isner and Niclas Mahut played a match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes.
Wimbledon received a lot of notoriety from this, but they also knew that it did not exactly help with ratings and scheduling in the long run. No person has the time to lock in for a match that spanned three days and lasted over 11 hours.
This new tiebreak plan at Wimbledon now starts at 12-12 in the fifth set. If a match gets to his point, there is a seven-point tiebreaker to determine the winner. The US Open and the Australian Open start the seven-point tiebreak when it is 6-6 in the fifth set.
Speeding Up The Game
Everyone knows that tennis games can be pretty drawn out at times, which is why they are doing what they can to speed up the game in subtle ways.
Perhaps the most controversial new change is having a server clock put into place. A player has a set amount of time to start the next point once everything comes to an end from the previous point.
Players currently at the pro level did not grow up with this clock, so it has caused some confusion and controversy so far. People will receive warnings and even lose points if they are constantly missing out on the clock.
They are also limiting options such as medical timeouts, breaks in-between sets, coaching, and more. This is all done to tidy up the match a little more and see if a few minutes are savable here and there.
It will not make too much of a difference at the end of the day, but it helps keep fans in the match. It also might help a tournament director figure out scheduling.
Impossible To Predict How Long A Tennis Game Will Last
Unlike sports like soccer and basketball, you never know how long a tennis event will last. Longer matches are generally considered better and more competitive, but it can get to the point that matches last too long for the average fan to stay engaged.
Tennis could go under some changes in the next few years to help make times a bit more uniform, but it is one of the world’s most popular sports without a clock dictating the game.