Wimbledon to introduce final-set tiebreakers in 2019

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LONDON — That epic 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon will never be matched or surpassed, or even challenged.

The All England Club said Friday it will introduce final-set tiebreakers next year, starting when the score reaches 12-12 in the decider.

The grass-court Grand Slam tournament is the second of the four majors to use a final-set tiebreaker to determine a singles match – either the fifth set in a men’s match or the third set for the women. The U.S. Open, however, starts its final-set tiebreakers at 6-6.

At the Australian Open and the French Open, players still have to win by two games in the final set in singles matches.

“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,” Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook said in a statement.

In a tiebreaker, the first player to get seven points – leading by at least two points – wins the set.

In 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon. The match took more than 11 hours and lasted over three days before Isner won 70-68 in the final set.

According to Wimbledon CEO Richard Lewis, many players were in favor of the change.

“There were mixed views, it’s fair to say. But predominantly, players favored the final-set tiebreak,” Lewis said. “They recognize the quality of tennis goes down, players start playing not to lose rather than the excitement or the determination to win. And they recognize it affects the quality of the matches on subsequent rounds.”

This year, eventual finalist Kevin Anderson played a pair of long matches late in the tournament. He beat eight-time champion Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set in the quarterfinals, and then defeated Isner 26-24 in the fifth in the semifinals – the second-longest match in the history of a tournament that began in 1877.

In the other semifinal match, Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set.

Two of those three matches would still be possible.

“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 timeframe,” Brook said.

Other notable long matches include Federer’s victory over Andy Roddick in the 2009 final, winning 16-14 in the fifth set.

Tiebreakers were first introduced at Wimbledon in 1971, but they started at 8-8 instead of 6-6 and were not used in deciding sets.

Before that, all sets had to be won by two games, including Margaret Court’s 14-12, 11-9 win over Billie Jean King in the 1970 final.

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.