How long is a tennis match?

The length of a tennis match can range anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. This depends heavily on several factors. To answer the question, “how long is a tennis match” we will examine these factors in this article. Plus, some tips for preparing yourself mentally and physically to play a long match.

a tennis ball with a watch

What is the average length of a tennis match?

The average length of a tennis match depends on several factors. The best 2 out of 3 sets averages 90 minutes while the best 3 out of 5 set matches average 2 hours and 30 to 45 minutes

Tennis game duration compared to other sports

Compared to other sports, a tennis game is a little bit shorter. However, various factors can make a tennis match last much longer than other sports.

The average professional basketball game is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The average professional football game lasts about 3 hours and 15 minutes. A professional soccer game lasts about 2 hours. A professional hockey game from start to finish takes 2 hours and 30 minutes. 

Why do tennis matches last so long?

Tennis matches last so long because tennis is a sport that does not have a pre-set time limit. Although the average 3 out of 5 set tennis match generally lasts about 2 hours and 30 to 45 minutes, it can take 4 or 5 hours or longer to complete.

The Variance Between Men’s and Women’s Playtime

Generally speaking, there is no difference in the average playtime in men’s vs women’s tennis matches. However, some tournaments have different set structures which can cause a difference in men’s vs women’s match length.

Each of the 4 major tournaments that are referred to as the Grand Slam Tournaments play the best 3 out of 5 sets for the men in singles and 2 out of 3 sets for the women’s singles and all doubles. The exception is the men’s doubles play 3 out of 5 sets at Wimbledon. Because of this, the average length of a women’s match is shorter than men’s.

a tennis player reaching for a ball

What are some factors that can affect how long a tennis match lasts?

The length of a tennis match depends on several factors:

How Evenly Matched the Players Are

The most important factor in determining how long a tennis match will last is how evenly matched the 2 players are in singles and the 4 players in doubles. If one player is much better than their opponent then the match will be over quickly. If the players are evenly matched it could last several hours.

The Type of Surface Played On

The next most important factor depends on the surface they are playing on. Some of the longest matches have been on clay which slows the ball down much more than on other surfaces and promotes long rallies.

Clay courts are prevalent in France (French Open) and Spain but can be found in many countries. On the other hand, grass is a common surface found in England (Wimbledon) and is a very fast surface. This can contribute to shorter rallies. Some players like to serve and volley on grass. The middle of the road surfaces are hardcourts found at the US Open and the Australian Open.

If the Game Is Played With Tie-Breakers

Another very important factor in determining the length of a tennis match is the use of tie-breaks. What is a tie-break? As the name implies, when the opponents get to a tie in games, at a predetermined number of games, a series of points is used to “break the tie”. This will substantially shorten the set and the match.

Tournaments have adopted a 7-point tie-break when the games in a set get to 6-6. The first player to 7 points, winning by 2 points then wins the set. Since the tie-break must be won by 2 points this can extend the length of a 7-point tie-break.

Is the match singles or doubles

In general, doubles matches can be faster than singles matches. This in part is due to the fact that most doubles matches in tournament play use scoring methods to speed up the game. This includes “no-ad” scoring and tie-breakers. 

However, assuming that the scoring being used in a doubles match is the same as a singles match, a doubles match will usually take less time to complete. There are a few reasons for this. First, you have 2 players on each side of the net vs 1 player on each side in singles. 2 players can cover the court quicker even though the doubles court is bigger. Another reason is that 2 of the players are always at the net striving to “put away” the ball. A third reason is that players, in your higher level matches, use hand signals and do a lot of “poaching” to cut off service returns. If a player at the net can get a racket on the ball, this substantially shortens the point.

Is the scoring “ad” or “no-ad”

There are two types of scoring used in a tennis match. “No-advantage” or “No-ad” scoring is a scoring method in which the first player to win four points wins the game. The requirement that a player win by two points in no-ad scoring is eliminated. When the score is 3 points to 3 points or 40 to 40 (deuce) the person who wins the next point wins the game. It is acceptable to count either 1-2-3 or 15-30-40.

One important thing to remember when using “no-ad” scoring is when the score is 3-3 or 40-40 and a game-determining point comes next, the service returner gets his/her choice of which side of the court to receive the return in – either the deuce court or the ad court. The exception to this rule is during a mixed doubles match. In this case, the server must serve the opponent of the same gender.  

“Advantage scoring” or “ad scoring” is the traditional way of scoring. In this scoring method, when the score becomes 40-40 (deuce) a player must win by two points to win that game. At “40 all” the person who loses the point goes back to 30. The score can continue to alternate from “deuce” to “ad” and back to “deuce” until one player or one doubles team wins 2 consecutive points. There is no time limit on the number of “deuce/ad” points in a game. This can extend the game for a much longer time period than if “no-ad” scoring is being used. 

Is the match 2 out of 3 sets or 3 out of 5 sets

The majority of tennis tournaments use the best 2 out of 3 set format. However, each of the 4 major tournaments that are referred to as the Grand Slam Tournaments play the best 3 out of 5 sets for the men in singles and 2 out of 3 sets for the women’s singles and all doubles. The exception is the men’s doubles play 3 out of 5 sets at Wimbledon. 3 out of 5 (or “best of five”) matches last quite a bit longer than best of 3 matches.

a tired tennis player sitting on the court

Tips for Playing a Long Tennis Match

A long tennis match can be very physically and mentally demanding. Unlike many team sports, tennis players must be actively engaged in the match for the entire game. For this reason, many players spend a lot of time developing their skills and endurance to help give them an advantage for these long matches. Some of the things you can do to help develop your long-match play skills are:

  • Cardio training (specifically endurance training)
  • Shot consistency training
  • Good nutrition before and during the match
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Adopt a good stretching routine
  • Think long-term

What are the effects of long tennis matches?

The effects of long tennis matches are both physical and mental. Physical effects include tiredness and soreness in the body. Long tennis matches can cause a buildup of lactic acid and other factors that can even contribute to cramps during and after the match. For this reason, it’s important to stay well-hydrated and practice good nutrition habits before and during a match.

Another effect of a long tennis match is the possibility of injury. High level tennis players can spend several hours essentially running sprints, which can cause muscle strains and tears.

Mental challenges of long tennis matches include the tendency for a person to want to get the match over with. Many players simply lose the will to win. Frustration and anger are also common when a player starts to lose the winning edge in a long match. This happens because no one wants to invest a long time into a match just to lose… everyone wants to win!

Conclusion: Tennis Match Length

The duration of a tennis game can last a long time, especially if they are playing using the best 3 out of 5 sets format. There are many things that players can do to help them play in long tennis matches, including practicing good nutrition and hydration habits, as well as cardio and shot consistency training. Playing long tennis matches can have physical and mental effects on players, including tiredness, soreness, frustration, anger, and a loss of will to win.

tired tennis player laying on the court

Tennis Match Length FAQ

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