The sheer unpredictability of tennis makes it one of the most enjoyable sports to watch. An apparently evenly-balanced match can end quickly, even if it had been expected to last a while. Novak Djokovic just defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the Cincinnati Open and the game lasted 3h and 49 minutes.
Therefore, the question of How Long Do Tennis Matches Last is not an easy one to answer. Men’s grand slam matches, for example, extend to five sets, whereas women’s grand slam matches are decided with the best of three sets and tiebreaks. I do also believe that as athletes become fitter and stronger over the years, so the matches get longer also. Maybe I should do a study on this… for another time!
An average best-of-3 tennis match lasts 90 minutes, while a best-of-5 match lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes. Professional tennis matches have been shorter than 20 minutes, but the longest match has lasted for 11 hours and 5 minutes.
Two rapid 6-0 sets in around 30 minutes could decide the fastest, most one-sided, best-of-three-sets match. When a set goes to a tie-break, it will most likely take around an hour. Therefore, it will take over three hours to complete a match with a close best of three sets. There can be a five-set match in less than an hour, but a five-set match can take five to six hours, emphasizing how physically demanding the men’s grand slam can be.
The Average Duration of a Tennis Set
It is possible to extrapolate the length of a set based on published mathematical studies estimating the duration of tennis games under differing circumstances. Those interested in numbers and formulae can find a 2017 article by Ferrante, Pontarollo, and Fonseca. Tennis sets typically take just over 40 minutes on average, even for those without a mathematics degree.
The surface of the court does, however, affect this. Because of the quick grass courts, a typical Wimbledon set usually takes under 40 minutes due to shorter rallies. The French Open, however, takes significantly longer than 40 minutes on average because clay courts produce longer rallies. A set can take as little as 15 minutes or extend over an hour in practice. These numbers are just averages, and a set can take as little as 15 minutes or as much as an hour.
How Long Do Three Set Matches Last?
During a best-of-three match, a player may win both sets if he or she wins both sets or if both sets are shared, the match may go into three sets.
It will take about 30 minutes to play two rapid sets, whereas it will take over two hours to play two close sets. In a two-set match, we can expect it to take about 1 hour 20 minutes, assuming an average time per set of 40 minutes. Based on the average set length of 40 minutes, the match will typically last around two hours if the first two sets are shared and a third is necessary.
Nevertheless, if all three sets are close, with a tie-break becoming the deciding factor, the match is very likely to take longer than 3 hours. It is possible for matches to last much longer than this if both players are very cautious. Although Vicki Nelson won in two sets, Jean Hepner and Vicki Nelson played their match for 6 hours and 31 minutes in 1984!
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How Long Do Five-Set Matches Last?
Three, four, or five sets can be played in a best-of-five match. Taking a 40-minute set as a starting point, we can estimate that most matches will last between 2 hours and 3 hours 20 minutes. A number of epic encounters have taken five hours or more, but there have also been ones that ended in one-sided matches in under an hour.
There was one match, however, that took considerably longer than the rest. The match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, taken over three days, lasted 11 hours, and 5 minutes and was decided 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68. Due to the fact that both players were better at serving than returning during the almost interminable fifth set, the contest was prodigiously long. As they became increasingly fatigued, it became increasingly difficult for them to break serve. In the fifth set of Wimbledon, a tie-break was introduced recently to prevent anything like this from happening again.
Some matches went to great lengths in best-of-five formats, which were played in tennis. Listed below are tennis matches with the longest and shortest durations.
How Long Do College Tennis Matches Last?
Doubles match in NCAA tournaments begin with a single set of doubles matches. The NCAA does not allow ‘let’s’ in its matches, and sudden death deuces are always played. In doubles, the sets will take about 30 to 45 minutes longer than in professional matches. A total of six singles matches will follow once this is complete. It is a best-of-three match with a 10-point tiebreak in the final set.
As a whole, the match is likely to take 2-3 hours due to the special NCAA rules. The singles round should take about 2 hours. The average college tennis match lasts about three hours.
How Long Does a High School Tennis Match Last?
US high school tennis matches don’t follow a universal format, but they typically start with boys’/girls’ doubles, followed by mixed doubles, and then singles. In contrast to the NCAA, there is no no-ad scoring system, so matches have a much wider range of lengths.
Depending on the state, high school tennis matches can last as long as six hours or more. In Texas, where there are 19 individual contests, matches can last up to six hours. It is not surprising that periodic discussions are held about shortening matches.
How Long Does a Doubles Tennis Match Last
It takes about 70 minutes on average for a doubles tennis match to be completed.
It is possible for doubles matches to last for eternity, however. Doubles matches are among the longest matches in tennis history, the longest Grand Slam doubles tennis match ever played lasted 6 hr 9 min and was played at Wimbledon. It was the quarterfinal match between Daniel Nestor (Canada) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) and Simon Aspelin (Sweden) and Todd Perry (Australia) on 4-5 July 2006. Knowles and Nestor won the match 5-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 23-21.
The Longest and Shortest Matches of All Time
As a result, a tennis match’s length is largely determined by the matchup between the opponents. In the event of a mismatch in playing level on the day of the match, regardless of court surface or weather conditions, a match can end very quickly. Interestingly enough, the longest match in history took place on Wimbledon’s grass courts!
Hence, let’s take a look at a few of the longest and shortest matches in professional sports!
Isner vs Mahut Wimbledon 
Among the most amazing sporting spectacles ever was the 2010 marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which captivated sports fans around the world. A final set of 70-68 ended the 11-hour, 5-minute match. Despite Isner’s win, both players were awarded trophies after the match to commemorate the historic occasion.
Berdych/Rosol vs Wawrinka/Chiudinelli Davis Cup 
Stan Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland and Tomas Berdych and Lucas Rosol of the Czech Republic also played insanely long matches during the 2013 Davis Cup. There was no end to the drama during this 7-hour and 1-minute doubles match. In the fifth set, the Czechs won 24-22.
Due to the rapid points and often finishing at the net, doubles matches don’t last as long as singles match; therefore, this match lasting seven hours is impressive!
Anderson vs Isner Wimbledon 
During the Wimbledon semi-finals of 2016, Kevin Anderson and John Isner contested another marathon match on grass courts. Despite a six-hour and 36-minute epic between these two big servers, it was the South African Anderson who ultimately won 26-24 in the fifth set.
Graff vs Zvereva French Open 
Steffi Graff defeated Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in just 34 minutes in the 1988 French Open final, defeating the tennis legend 6-0 6-0. In this grand slam final, Steffi had the first and only double bagel and proved to be just as dominant as she was!
Harper vs Sandiford Surrey Open 
During the 1946 Surrey Open, Harper defeated Sandiford in 18 minutes, one of the shortest matches ever contested. The 6-0 6-0 victory was won by Harper with just one point lost.
Nieminen vs Tomic Miami Masters 
During the 2014 Miami masters, Nieminen and Tomic played a match that was a complete whitewash, as the Finn took it 6-0 6-1 in just 28 minutes. For Tomic, this was a new low. It’s not uncommon for him to tank matches, but this was more than that.
What Influences the Length of a Tennis Match?
The length of a tennis match depends on a variety of factors. There are a variety of factors to consider, including opponents, court surfaces, and weather conditions. They all influence whether a match lasts six hours or less!
It is important to note that the level of equality between the two players is what determines how long a tennis match will last! In this case, either an attrition war or an absolute whitewash can result.
Sometimes even highly-ranked players are not at their best on the day and play lower-ranked players who have nothing to lose, and the match can become one of the greatest ever.
The 2016 Australian Open, for instance, featured Novak Djokovic and Simon, where Novak hit over 100 unforced errors but still managed to win in five topsy-turvy sets. Federer turned things around in the end when he faced Falla at the 2010 Wimbledon championships from two sets down but the lowly ranked lefty gave him a scare.
Players’ form on the day can sometimes determine a match’s outcome rather than their ranking or reputation.
There have been many instances in history where the weather has impacted tennis matches. During grand slams, where schedules are so tight, rain delays have prolonged matches over multiple days.
The length of a match can even be affected by heavy winds. As a result, players will often play with a higher margin for error and at a slower pace when the conditions are testing. This naturally increases the length of the rally and ultimately the match’s duration.
Match length is often influenced by the court surface on which the match is played.
As a result, shorter points are more likely to be scored on fast surfaces, like indoor hard courts or grass courts.
Those who are good at this tend to take the ball early, hit flatter, serve big, hit big groundstrokes, and finish the point at the net. On this type of surface, the points naturally shorten.
In contrast, clay tends to extend rally lengths because the ball bounces higher and moves through the court more slowly, players can cover more ground by sliding around the court, and players are able to play with more margin for error. In contrast to playing on grass, this naturally extends the duration of a match.
A hard question to answer given there is no definitative answer. We have tried to give some guidelines here but you just never know how long a game will take. There is also much debate on how to shorten matches (note the grand slams now have a final set tie break to stop the sets going too long). I think there is also a trend amongst organizers to please the younger generation with shorter format, quicker tennis.