New Yorkers have always enjoyed being quick and efficient. Get in, get the information you need, and get out before the parking lot gets crazy.
It’s no different at the US Open in Queens.
In 1970, the US Open adopted what is known as the fifth-set tiebreak. No other Grand Slam tourney has ever included the controversial tiebreak. The fifth set represents the final set in a great match, the end of which results in the win. I say “great”because all of the Grand Slam tourneys have a ‘best three sets out of five’ policy – so you can be sure that a match which has gone to five sets has been a battle to the finish between two excellent players.
A VERY brief rundown of scoring in tennis.
- First person to win four points wins the game.
- It takes six games to win a set, (must win by two).
- If the game score reaches 6-6, the players play a tiebreak
- The tie break is out of twelve, (first player to seven points wins).
- The winner of the tiebreak wins the set.
Australia, London and France all use tiebreaks on any set prior to the fifth. Once a match has reached five sets, the tiebreak rule is abandoned and players continue as long as it takes to win the set. If you catch two hungry players, each with a fierce desire to win the match, you are going to be there for a long time. Every once in a while, you’ll be there for an EXTREMELY long time.
Perhaps the most famous example of this is what has become known as “The Endless Match,” which took place at Wimbledon in 2010. American John Isner faced off against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu for an incredible 11+ hours over the course of three days. The fifth and final set, which went on sans tiebreak, lasted a remarkable 8+ hours and brought the total number of games to 138. Finally, Isner sent the ball out of bounds, and the historical match came to a close with a final score sounding like a basketball game: 70-68.
There are two sides to every coin, and the US side is which ever one is more valuable. Creators and supporters of the fifth-set tiebreak in the US swear that the tiebreak is much more satisfying, (some fans not being able to hold their focus for the hours it may take to win a open-ended set) and thrilling, (exciting to the fans who naw their fingernails to the bone). Any stroke can be the last.
US Open Director Bill Talbert told the New York Times in regards to the fifth-set tiebreaks, “Of course [the players] will be nervous, but the fans will love it. Did you ever know a player who bought a ticket?”
Not to mention, tiebreaks keep the matches short and the tourney on schedule, as opposed to the Isner/Mathieu match which pushed Maria Sharipova back a day, upsetting paying fans, broadcast stations, and players.
The traditionalists who scoff at the fifth-set tiebreaks usually have the same complaint: It just doesn’t seem right. Two players have just battled for five, long sets. They’ve proven themselves as incredible opponents, a fantastic matchup, and here we are, prepared to end it all with a first-to-seven. While the tension may be thicker in a tiebreak, the emotions poured onto the court during a traditional fifth set are inspiring, powerful, and historical.
Either way, if you have tickets to Arthur Ashe this month, don’t hold your breathe waiting for a Wimbledon ’08 Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal 9-7 finals set, or an epic battle like Isner/Mathieu. But you can probably count on keeping your day on schedule.