The score stands at a nail-biting 6-6 in the second set of the French Open finals. You’re riveted, eyes glued to the television, as two of the world’s premier tennis players spar for each and every point.
Just when you anticipate one of these elite athletes seizing control of the set, the other player unexpectedly rallies, evening the score. The phone rings, pulling you away from the gripping match to attend to an urgent matter.
Upon your return, you find the second set concluded at 7-6, and the finalists have already embarked on the first game of the third set. If you’re a newcomer to the sport or a casual observer, this might perplex you. After all, isn’t it a common understanding that a tennis player must win by a margin of two or more games to claim a set?
But first you must educate yourself on the tennis scoring system.
So how, then, did the second set conclude with a tennis score of 7-6?
Your understanding is correct up to a point. The standard rule in tennis indeed stipulates that a player must win by two or more games to close out a set. However, this rule isn’t as rigid as many spectators unfamiliar with the intricacies of the game might believe.
While it’s true that a player must win by a margin, what happens if both competitors fail to seize control and dominate the set’s outcome? The set, and potentially the match, would prolong indefinitely, oscillating back and forth through countless games until one player outmaneuvers, outperforms, and outlasts the other.
This concept might sound familiar to fans of the reality TV show Survivor, and a similar principle applies in tennis. Surviving the grueling duration of such a match can be brutal. This was the norm in tennis before the advent of television advertisements.
Thankfully, the introduction of tie-breaker scoring has changed the game.
Spectators appreciate it and for the most part, tennis athletes prefer it. The results of the tennis score for such a close set are no longer dragged out for countless games to finish a set and ultimately a match.
Consider this for a moment.
Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments are notorious for their duration, often exceeding four hours, and sometimes even stretching beyond five hours. And this is with the tie-breaker scoring system in place.
Imagine if tie-breaker scoring wasn’t a factor in determining the final score of a set. What would be the implications for these matches?
It’s likely that an additional hour or two, perhaps even three, could be tacked onto the length of such a fiercely contested match. This would inevitably complicate the scheduling and marketing of television advertisements, as well as disrupt television programming schedules.
7 Point Tiebreak – Winning
The solution to managing time and accelerating the conclusion of a set when the score is tied at 6-6 is the ‘7 Point Tiebreak’, also known as the tiebreaker scoring system. This system introduces an alternative point scoring method for the final game.
In a ‘7 Point Tiebreak’, the first player to accumulate seven points with a two-point lead wins both the game and, crucially, the set. For example, the final game score could be 7-0, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, or 7-5. You might notice that 7-6 is not included. This is because a player must secure a two-point advantage to win a game, so a 7-6 score will not conclude a ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game.
The game must proceed until one player secures a two-point lead, resulting in a final score such as 8-6, 9-7, 10-8, 11-9, 12-10, and so on, for the ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game.
The ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game comes into play after twelve games have been contested and the score is tied at 6-6. This is the only instance in tennis when a player can close out a set by winning with a one-game advantage, resulting in a final score of 7-6 or 6-7.
7 Point Tiebreak – Serve Order
So, how do you decide who serves first in a ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game? The answer is straightforward: maintain the existing rotation of serves.
In other words, the player who is next in line to serve kicks off the game by serving the first point from the right service court, also known as the deuce court.
After the first point is played, the rotation of serves switches.
The second and third points are served by the opponent of the player who served the first point. This player serves the second point from the left service court (also known as the advantage court or ‘ad’ court) and then serves the third point from the right service court.
Apart from the first point, each player serves two consecutive points throughout the entire ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game. They always serve the first of these two points from the left service court, followed by the second point from the right service court.
7 Point Tiebreak – Court Rotations
After every six points played, the players switch ends of the court. This rotation continues until a winner of the ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game is determined.
Once the ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game concludes and if the match isn’t over, the players switch ends of the court again. This is because the match score is 7-6, and the sum of these scores (13) is an odd number. According to traditional tennis scoring rules, players always switch ends when the sum of the games adds up to an odd number.
Additionally, the traditional tennis scoring rules specify that the player who served the first point in the ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game will receive the serve at the start of the next set.
Tie-Breaker Scoring Tips
- 6-6 in a set triggers a ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ game
- The game is won by the first player to score 7 points with a 2-point advantage
- the 1st point is served from the right service court (deuce court)
- rotate serves after the 1st point is played
- with the exception of the 1st point served, each competitor serves 2 consecutive points, always serving the first point from the left service court (advantage court or ‘ad’ court) and then serving the second point from the right service court (deuce court)
- Players switch ends of the court every 6 points
By the way, are you familiar with an alternative method to expedite the results of tennis scores in a game with no-ad scoring?
Are tiebreaks used in all sets?
This depends on the tournament rules. In some tournaments, like Wimbledon, a final set cannot be decided by a tiebreak and must be won by two games. However, as of 2019, Wimbledon has introduced a tiebreak when the score reaches 12-12 in the final set.
What is a ‘Super Tiebreak’?
A ‘Super Tiebreak’ is used in place of a final set in some matches. It’s played to 10 points instead of the usual 7, and the player must still have a two-point advantage to win.
What is the longest tiebreak in professional tennis history?
The longest tiebreak in terms of points played occurred in 2013 during a match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Roddick, with Roddick eventually winning the tiebreak 21-19.
What happens after a tiebreak?
If the match isn’t over after the tiebreak, players switch ends of the court and the player who received the first serve in the tiebreak serves to start the next set.
Tie-Breaker scoring is a valuable addition to the sport of tennis, widely appreciated by athletes, spectators, and network television executives alike.
The next time you find yourself engrossed in a Grand Slam Tennis Tournament and the score reaches a tense 6-6 tie, brace yourself for an exhilarating ‘7 Point Tiebreak’ showdown. This decisive game will determine the final score for the set, and potentially, the outcome of the entire match.