Singles Third Set Tiebreaker?

Gordon Hammes

While at a tournament, the match next to me was between a pair of fantastic 86 and 89 year old players.  It went to three full sets in three full hours.  Was it dangerous to their health?  Did it mess up the schedule?  Should they be playing a third set tiebreaker instead?

That is the question one tournament director asks.

“Should 80’s plus have match tiebreaker for third scoring?   Often a two-set match in these ages goes 3 hours; do we really need longer matches at this age.   When and if I reach 80, I have no desire to play 3 hour plus matches.   Should we really be risking injuries and health just to prove who can last the longest at that age?  Then if you do survive a long match, you’re not much good for the next one.   I know there are some die-hards that want to show how tough they are, but I think common sense and fun of the game should prevail.”

Even though one of my Naples Pelican Bay idols is nationally-ranked and super runner Gordon Hammes (who would want to use his advantage), I would agree with the writer on both the health risk and the probability of no gas left in the tank for the next day.

And maybe that concept could/should move down one age bracket into the 75s?  If anyone is attempting to play both singles and doubles the same day, a full three set match could be a killer (literally?).

Your opinions??

Next week: Playing dubs in the tournament at Payne Park, Sarasota and am seeded #1!  Oh, did i forget to mention that my partner is Hank Irvine.  🙂  The tournament link is HERE

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

10 thoughts on “Singles Third Set Tiebreaker?

  1. While some 80-90 year old players might be able to survive a three hour match, it may create an avoidable risk for others. The tournaments should not be an endurance contest at this age, but should be a spirited fun competition. Nobody wants to see a player at these ages risk their health, or life.
    I am all in for making the matches two sets with a third set tiebreaker

    Michael, i am with you … and would move it down to the 75s too! george

  2. Would love to hear what the 80+ players have to say on the subject. I’ve watched four and five hour clay court singles matches in the 60’s division. It didn’t look like a *bit* of fun to me. 🙂 But, it also seems to me that those are the type of folks who *play* singles tennis tournaments, even if some of them *do* get carted off in ambulances. . .

    Kevin, there’s the “fun”… going to the hospital!! george

  3. I read this column to Jim Mackey (92 year old 13 gold balls veteran player now retired from competition) and asked his feedback. He said it makes sense to him to limit the 3rd set to match tiebreaker for the 85 and 90+ age groups but not the 80’s or below. He felt the 80’s players can handle the full third set.

    Winder, tell me how YOU feel when you get there! thanks, george

  4. I feel health should be the number one priority in the 80 and overs. If a match TB is good enough for 60 and over doubles, it should be fine for 80 and over singles. 3 hour matches aren’t fun, they’re torture. I don’t want to do things I like for 3 hours!!

    Steve, without good health, we don’t play at all. thanks, george

  5. George, I wonder if a few more people would play . I met a 62 year old last night that was playing for the very first time. I will never forget the great look on his face . He commented I started playing for exercise. Sometimes if we think in terms of growing this game by adding more players and being able to play it for a long time we would be happy for a third set tiebreaker!

    OhioJack, that is one of the prime reasons I play! thanks, george

  6. This past Saturday I watched a number of the Finals matches at the ASC Cat 2. Most of the matches I saw that went to 3 sets were decided by a VERY decisive 3rd set. To me, that means the winner of the match was the player/team that was in better shape – not necessarily the ones with the better tennis skills. So, if you want to recognize and reward the better tennis skills, play a shorter match. If you want to reward the better athlete, stretch out the matches as long as possible.

    ALSO, shorter matches would be easier to schedule and keep the tourney on track. There would hopefully be fewer injuries, and there may be fewer defaults by players who won a very long match but cannot compete the next day (or even later the same day if in multiple events).

    I doubt that players who WANT to play out the 3rd set would avoid a tournament in which the 3rd set was simply a TB, but I think it’s likely that some players who can’t or don’t want to play a full 3rd set will avoid a tournament which requires a full 3rd set.

    Terry, great logic! thanks, george

  7. To be able to play at 80+ is a true compliment to the individual. As a general rule….mine probably….the body parts only have so much in them. Makes sense to me that a 10 point tie break is a good way to go. Or, each one gets a serve and if still tied, then a 7 pointer.

    Howie, interesting. thanks, george

  8. George, As a former player, the body just hasn’t responded to rehabilitate yet, I think Howie just might have a great idea. I miss the guys tons but thinking of three hour matches in these age groups doesn’t seem to hold the same allure that it once did. Talking among competitors always seems to generate novel ideas that might grow the game.

    Patrick, thanks. george

  9. As a player in the 80s, it is my opinion that if both players want to play a full third set they should be able too. If one or both of them think a third set would be harmful to their health then a 10 pointer would be required. Tennis at this age should not be an endurance contest.

    Jack, but then it might become a “male ego contest”. thanks, george

  10. Here’s a thought. Since many of the seeded players are already getting a bye in the first round, why not have all those matches that are being played first have a third set 10 point tie break. This way the winner, should he have a long battle, will have a better fighting chance in the next round against a seed who is rested.

    Doug, interesting idea! thanks, george

Comments are closed.