Recent Changes to the Tennis Scoring System

Dr. Mandeep Ghumman currently heads HealthyPets, Inc., a diversified company operating in the pet industry out of Union City, California. Dr. Manny Ghumman enjoys spending his time away from work on the tennis court.

The scoring system used in modern tennis matches dates back only to 1975, when the current 13-point tie-break was first used at the U.S. Open. Prior to the introduction of the tie-break format, any set in match could theoretically last forever. Sets were won by securing six games as well as a two-game advantage, meaning a common score might read 6-0, 19-21, 6-4. Today the tie-break is used to decide sets knotted at six games apiece, with the exception of the fifth and final set of Davis Cup matches or during Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon final sets.

The tie-break is not the only way that modern tennis scoring differs from past scoring systems. The entire women’s tour and the vast majority of the men’s tour are currently played in a best-of-three set format. The best-of-five set system is used only for Davis Cup ties and at the four majors. In the past, however, five-set matches were much more common. As recently as 2007 Novak Djokovic and Guillermo Canas contested a best-of-five set final at the Miami Open. For several years Masters events, the level below major events, used five-set finals, and looking further back many events implemented the best-of-five set format throughout the entire event.