What is a tiebreak in tennis?

Tennis scoring can at times be complicated to understand. A match consists of three or five sets. A player needs to win six games with a difference of two in order to win a set. Players alternate their serves after each game. A player needs to win four points (15,30,40,game) in order to win a game. If the score is 40-40 a deuce is called and the first player to win two consecutive points wins the game.

In the earlier days, when the set score would reach 6-6, the set continued till one of the two players won with a difference of two games. This often made matches too long and the players would also get fatigued. It was in the 1950s when the first proposals of a tiebreak were made. However, it was only two decades later that major tournaments welcomed the tiebreak scoring. A 13-point tiebreak was introduced in Wimbledon in 1971. It was played when the set-score reached 8-8. In 1979, Wimbledon announced that tiebreaks would be played at a set score of 6-6. However, no tiebreaks would be played in the final set. Final set tiebreaks in Olympics were introduced in 2016.

Today, most events outside the slams have a common tiebreak scoring rule. At the set score of 6-6, the first player to win 7 points with a difference of two would win the set. As far as the slams are considered, the French Open still does not employ a final set tiebreak. The Australian Open sees a first to 10 points with a difference of two in the final set tiebreak when the set score reaches 6-6. Wimbledon’s latest rule sees a tiebreak being played at a set score of 12-12. The US Open plays out a routine seven-point tiebreak in the final set.

In a tiebreak between Player A and Player B, Player A gets the first serve. After that both players serve twice each till the set ends. Players switch sides after every 6 points. A tiebreak score is written as set-score (player with less points). For example if Player A wins a tiebreak with a score of 7-2 against Player B, then the score would be written as 7-6(2).

Tiebreaks are a thrilling bunch of points in tennis that are as good as penalty shots in football. The rules of tiebreak in professional tennis are nearly the same. Subtle variations may exist in tennis tournaments with alternative formats like Fast Four, Tiebreak Tens, World Team Tennis, Thirty30 tennis, etc.

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