History of the tiebreak
The tiebreak was invented by
Van Alen in 1965 after an earlier, unsuccessful attempt to speed up the game by
the use of his so-called Van Alen Streamlined Scoring System (VASSS).
years before the Open Era, in 1955 and 1956, the United States Pro Championship
in Cleveland, Ohio was played by VASSS rules.
The scoring was the same as that
in table tennis, with sets played to 21 points and players alternating 5
services, with no second service. The rules were partially created in order to
limit the effectiveness of the powerful service of the reigning professional
Even with the new rules, however, Gonzales beat
Pancho Segura in the finals of both tournaments.
Even though the 1955 match
went to 5 sets, with Gonzales barely holding on to win the last one 21-19,
apparently it took only 47 minutes to play.
The fans attending the matches preferred the traditional rules, however, and in
1957 the tournament reverted to the old method of scoring.
The tiebreak was then invented by Van Alen in 1965 and was introduced at the
United States Open in 1970 after a successful trial period at Newport, Rhode
Island. Originally, the winner of the tiebreak was the first player to reach
five points, and there was no requirement that someone win by two points.
Impetus to use the tiebreak gained force after a monumental 1969 struggle at
Pancho Gonzales and
Charlie Pasarell. This was a 5-set match that lasted five hours and 12
minutes and took 2 days to complete. In the fifth set the 41-year-old Gonzales
won all seven match points that Pasarell had against him, twice coming back from
0-40 deficits. The final score was 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9.
In 1971 the tiebreak was introduced at Wimbledon when the score in any set
except the final set reached 8-8 in games.
In 1979 the tiebreak was changed to be in effect when any set reached 6-6 in
games, except the final set.
Tennis match game scoring and the Tiebreaker
Tennis match scoring is identical in singles and doubles games.
In a tennis game if the same player was to win every point it would be scored as
First point – 15 -0
Second pont – 30-0
Third point – 40-0
Fourth point – Game
Zero points are referred to by the
term love (some speculate it originated from the French word for egg, l’oeuf,
which shape looks like the number zero.
The word ‘Deuce’ is used to express a 40 point tie.
Game must be won by two points, a two point margin is necessary, so play
continues until one player achieves a two point lead. Any tie at this period always called
There is system called “no-ad”, often practiced at College level tennis, where
after the first deuce a single point is played to decide the game. In this case
the returner has the choice of sides to return from (Deuce or Ad side).
In tennis tournaments, the server score is always called first.
If playing without umpires, only the server calls the score.
This how you would call the score if you were the server and had lost the first
point – ‘love-15’
Or if you are serving at 30-30 and you win the next point – ’40-30.’
In singles or doubles the players or teams exchange sides after each odd-numbered game,
for example at:
3-0 or 2-1
5-0 or 3-2 or 4-1 or 5-4
6-1 or 6-3 or 6-5 and so on.
To win a set tennis players must win six games, a two game winning difference is
Therefore, in a set tied at 5-5, 7 games are necessary to win, some sets
can go to 22-24 or more games to win the set.
To avoid these long sets and to please TV, the tiebreaker was created.
The tiebreaker is an option tournament organizers choose to enforce or not,
players are informed before the tournament starts.
A set tied at 6-6 the tiebreaker will be anounced by the chair umpire.
As a rule tiebreakers are played to 7 points, but since they must be won by at least two points,
they may be extended.
Regardless of tiebreaker final point sum the winner is recorded as having won the set
Tennis matches are usually the best two out of three sets (Women matches are all
best of 3 sets) or the best three out of five sets and organizers reserve the
right to employ the tiebreaker on every set or on the final set or not at all.
There you have it this it for the tennis match game scoring and the Tiebreaker.
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Related Links and Tennis Instruction
How to play a Tiebreaker – 1st point (A must read!)
Tennis – Roger Federer Is he really that good? (See how you can improve your Tiebreaker record!)