May 12, 2019
So marathon matches at Wimbledon will become a thing of the past.
Fifth set tie-breaks are to be introduced at 12-12.
Perfect. Well done Wimbledon. As tennis fans, your ticket will now provide even better value for money.
Less disruption to the schedule can only be a good thing. Look what happened last year.
Men’s semi-finals day. One of the most sought-after tickets of the entire tournament.
But the biggest semi-final ran over into the Saturday of the Ladies Final.
In the first semi, Kevin Anderson beat John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of an epic lasting six hours thirty-five minutes.
But it pushed the much-awaited Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal match back too far.
So far, in fact, that they had to complete the Nadal v Djokovic classic on the Saturday.
An incredible bonus for those with tickets for the women’s final. Not so great for those who had paid for the Friday.
Now tennis fans can be much more confident that, on the biggest Wimbledon days, they will get exactly what they hoped they had paid for.
So why not go the whole hog and opt for a fifth-set breaker at 6-6 like any other set?
That’s what the US Open does. According to Greg Rusedski, it is what Wimbledon should do too. Because 12-12 is ‘still an extra set.’
Guess you’re right on the extra set, Greg. Just wrong on the rest.
And here is where the Wimbledon decision-makers have been so brilliant.
They asked themselves a simple question: when does a nail-biting cliff-hanger of a match become too exhausting for specators?
Take the historic match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut back in 2011. It was staged over three days, the final set finishing 70-68 in Isner’s favour.
That last set alone took more than eight hours. Sure, it was dramatic because it had never happened before.
But some will also argue that Anderson-Isner crossed the line from drama to tedium. Even though there was so much riding on the match.
But that’s just it. With so much riding on a match, isn’t it just a tennis crime to write off a fifth set with a traditional tie-break at 6-6, US Open style?
Let’s not lose the best of that fifth-set war of attrition, that gladiatorial, last-man -standing battle to the death.
Example? Rafael Nadal v Gilles Muller a couple of Wimbledons back. Everyone expected Nadal to win. But Muller was playing out of his skin.
Could Rafa eventually prevail through sheer force of will? Or would he succumb to the brilliance of the underdog in the end?
Muller won through 15-13, while the fight was still totally absorbing. Edge-of-seat, knife-edge marathons. Not boring schedule-wreckers. That’s what we want.
Wimbledon has decided to preserve the drama and lose the disruptive stuff. Keep the best but ditch the rest.
And you know what? With the 12-12 rule, they have got it absolutely right.
Well done Wimbledon. Yet again you have taken the best of history and tradition, then moved it forward into modern times. The right balance.
That’s a tough one to achieve. Yet Wimbledon manages to get that tricky fusion spot on and they do it time and again.
That’s why Wimbledon will continue to be the greatest tournament in the world. Buy your tickets here.