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2022 US Open: How is the winner decided if they get to 6-6 in the fifth set?

The US Open has employed final set tiebreaks since 1970 but all four Grand Slams are now aligned with 10-point breakers in place on a trial basis.

US Open enters the 10-point tiebreak era

Carolina Alves ensured her place in the history books during the first round of the qualifying tournament at the 2022 US Open when she beat Stefanie Vögle 10-8 in a final set tiebreaker, the first time in the tournament’s history a match had been decided using that format.

All four Grand Slams elected to synchronize their rules to include a 10-point tiebreak in the final set on a trial basis starting with the French Open in May, the governing body of the sport’s most prestigious events announced in March.

US Open introduces 10-point breakers

As such, as of this year at the US Open, matches that reach a score of 6-6 in the final set will be decided by a 10-point tiebreaker, with the victor the first player to reach 10 points with at least a two-point lead. If play continues beyond the 10-point mark, the winner will be the first player to achieve a two-point advantage. This outcome occurred during a first-round match between David Goffin and Lorenzo Musetti, the Italian taking the final-set breaker 11-9.

Prior to the decision to align all the slams with 10-point breakers, each of the four majors employed different ways of deciding the final set.

While the Australian Open introduced the 10-point tiebreak in 2019, the US Open had employed traditional tiebreaks even in the final set since 1970, whereby the first player to reach seven points with a margin of two is declared the winner.

Isner and the final set

Wimbledon introduced a seven-point tiebreak when the score reached 12-12 in the final set of all matches at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club in 2019, following a three-hour final set in the 2018 semi-finals between Kevin Anderson and John Isner, the South African eventually prevailing 26-24.

It was a second marathon match at Wimbledon for the big-serving American, whose place in history alongside Nicolas Mahut for the longest game of tennis every played is now assured to stand for all time. In 2010 on Court 18, the two players engaged in a tussle that spanned 11 hours and five minutes spread over three days, with Isner, then the world number number 10, eventually prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68, with the final set lasting eight hours and 11 minutes.

Explaining its decision in March, the Grand Slam Board said it was “based on a strong desire to create greater consistency in the rules of the game at the Grand Slams, and thus enhance the experience for the players and fans alike.

The Grand Slam Board plan to review the trial during the course of a full Grand Slam year, in consultation with the WTA, ATP and ITF, before applying for any permanent rule change.”