'Play the big points well' is a phrase often used in tennis as players train and condition both body and mind to make sure they’re at peak performance when the most critical moments arise.


A match can hinge on just a few key points, even after hours of gruelling intensity and momentum shifts.

It’s arguable there are no bigger points than those in a tie-break. Many view them as mini-matches inside a match – they're the most exciting the sport can get!

Over the years, tie-breaks have undergone several changes in the rules to make them ideal for the ever-evolving tennis landscape.

RadioTimes.com brings you all you need to know on just how a tie-break works, and why you’ll be seeing even more of them at Grand Slams going forward.

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What is a tie-break in tennis?

The formula is simple. A tie-break is a one-off game held to decide the winner of a set when two players are locked at 6-6.

This mini match is a simple first-to-seven-points shoot-out, with the winner being the first player to hit that magic number.

However, if the players involved in the tie-break are locked at six points apiece, then the tie-break continues until one player achieves a two-point lead to win the tie-break and the set.

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Why does tennis have tie-breaks?

In short, tie-breaks are important to cap the length of a match, but they haven't always been a thing.

Cast your mind back to Wimbledon 2010, when the longest match of all time lasted 11 hours and five minutes. It ran over three days, with 138 games occurring in the final set.

This match, among others, also led to tennis adopting the tie-break in the final sets of Grand Slams. Up until 2018, a tie-break would only be used during matches and not as a tool to help it conclude in final sets. But that has changed.

Final set tie-break rules

Tie-breaks that decide matches at Grand Slams follow the same format as traditional tie-breaks but run up to 10 points with the ‘win by two’ rule still in place.

This is designed to help both players and fans, by protecting players from long, gruelling encounters during a Grand Slam fortnight and providing more concentrated moments of excitement for fans.

Check out our live tennis on TV today page for all the major tournaments taking place this week and in 2023.

Read more about this year's Wimbledon in the special latest issue of Radio Times magazine – out now.


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