Is it Time for Wimbledon to Change Its Tiebreak Rule?

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The Wimbledon Championship Logo

Ben Radford/Corbis

The longest-match in tennis history has some begging for a fifth-set reprieve. Others call it a classic match made possible by a unique rule.

Wimbledon stands out among the grand slam quartet. Grass courts and great class make the All England Club extravaganza arguably tennis’ most prestigious tournament.

But is there much prestige attached to the ridiculous first-round match between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut? Play was stopped Wednesday evening due to darkness, with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 59-59 tie on the scoreboard

That’s right. It’s neither the third quarter of the NBA finals, nor a high school football game. Conventional tennis wisdom is screaming! Where’s the tiebreaker? Six-six is the time to call it quits in favor of the organized yet anticlimactic final race to seven points.

Business Insider’s Henry Blodget is one of the individuals on that side of the net. His Thursday piece cites the tiebreaker as a “perfect way to end a close match,” thanks to its ability to equalize opportunity.

Real Clear Sports’ Tim Joyce volleys to the other side, arguing that the rule must stay in play, as it led to two of the most famous finals in tennis history: 1980 (Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe) and 2008 (Rafael Nadal tops Roger Federer)

Either way, in the heat of the moment, the No. 23-seeded Isner was convinced that the record was made of stone.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever,” said Isner in a television interview after the match was suspended. “He’s serving fantastic, I’m serving fantastic.”

The previous record was a six-hour, 33-minute first-round match at the 2004 French Open, sporting a pair of French foes — Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement.

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