Australian Open poised to introduce final set tie-breaks - but format will differ from Wimbledon

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
The intention is to play a tie-break at 6-6 in the final set - Getty Images
The intention is to play a tie-break at 6-6 in the final set - Getty Images

Tennis Australia plan to follow Wimbledon’s lead by introducing a tie-break in the deciding set of matches at the Australian Open.

But here’s the catch: the intention is to play a tie-break at 6-6 in the final set, rather than at 12-12, which is the Wimbledon solution. And just to add an extra variation, the tie-break will be the slightly expanded first-to-ten-points version used on the doubles tour, rather than the old-fashioned first-to-seven.

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The irony of this situation is that – as and when the new Australian model is introduced – all four majors will be operating a different scoring system.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) have not yet indicated that they will bring in any deciding-set tie-break at all, so matches at Roland Garros can still carry on indefinitely. While the US Open offers an equally straightforward position: all sets must be decided by an orthodox tie-break when the score reaches 6-6.

Tennis Australia recently applied to the Grand Slam Board for permission to use this new scoring system, which is intended to reduce the number of debilitating matches such as this year’s five-hour Wimbledon semi-final between John Isner and Kevin Anderson.

<span>John Isner and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1085264/" data-ylk="slk:Nicolas Mahut">Nicolas Mahut</a> played out the longest match in Wimbledon history in 2010, at 11hrs 5mins with Isner winning the final set 70-68</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played out the longest match in Wimbledon history in 2010, at 11hrs 5mins with Isner winning the final set 70-68 Credit: Getty Images

They received approval on a year-by-year trial basis. The game’s administrators do not seem to be greatly concerned about minor variations in scoring systems between tournaments, which have existed for decades without anyone complaining.

However, there is a larger conflict looming on the issue of coaching from the sidelines. This was tried as an experiment at the recent US Open, even though it applied only to marginal events such as qualifying and juniors, not the main singles and doubles draws. In January, the Australian Open is poised to follow suit.

Yet the Telegraph understands that the stand-off on this issue has not been resolved. The new-world slams – Australia and the US – want coaching. The old-world powers of Wimbledon and the FFT loathe it. Given the way the sport is organised, the traditionalists hold an advantage on this front. It is likely to be easier for them to maintain the status quo than for the revolutionaries to change it.

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