Tennis 101: How Long Do Tennis Games Last? 

Like most sporting events, a game of tennis can stretch for quite a long time. Perhaps this is where everyone’s love for tennis stems from. Between unpredictability and eager eyes; every die-heart fan patiently awaits the next move. But, let’s not digress and understand how long tennis games last. 

On average a best of 3 tennis match lasts for 90 minutes while a best of 5 tennis match lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Believe it or not, some of the most professional tennis matches have also lasted for 20 minutes only.

This is why I believe that tennis is by far the most entertaining sport to watch. This is so because you have no idea where the game might go. Every move is a counter to their last one and in a game on a constant catch, the viewers keep getting intrigued. 

So my fellow tennis fans, let me take you on a ride to determine other tennis match lengths in detail. 

How Long Is a Set of Tennis? 

An average tennis set finishes in 40 minutes. A match is, however, decided in two sets, so two tennis sets finish in 80 minutes. If a match is still not decided in two sets, then there’s a need for a third set which finishes in 40 minutes, so that’s 120 minutes for three sets. 

Some factors change an average set’s time. For example, grass courts account for shorter rallies and hence grass court matches take under 40 minutes. 

Similarly, clay courts have longer rallies and they end up passing the 40-minute mark. 

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How Long Are 3 Sets Of Tennis? 

Two rapid sets of 6-0 take around 30 minutes in a best-of-three match. If a set goes to the tie-breaker round that takes 60 minutes and a best-of-three close-set match will end in 180 minutes. If we go by the 40 minutes per set rule, then three sets will end in 120 minutes.

The most common tennis match is decided over a best of 3. So in the tennis world, you’ll be seeing a lot of best of 3 matches. These are usually won when a player wins in 2 or all 3 sets.

As I said above, the court surface also plays a big role in determining the length of a tennis match, be it best of three or best of five. 

How Long Are 5 Sets of Tennis? 

Much like the best of 3, a best of 5 is usually done within a maximum of 4 sets. According to our previous calculation, this would mean that the total best of the three-match would last somewhere between 5 to 6 hours. The small best of five sets can even end in an hour. 

Again, they could progress quicker but they also can’t. This is unprecedented and can only be estimated. 

How Long Are Double Tennis Matches? 

Normally, there are no average points displayed during a match so the deciding set is usually played as a super tie break. This makes for shorter matches instantly. That’s why a regular doubles match will last somewhere around 70 minutes. 

Doubles are a stark contrast to singles matches. There’s no endless rallying and a lot more volleying. So, naturally, this shortens the points. Plus, the format used also plays a major role. 

What’s crazy about these is that they do have the potential to last forever. This can be seen that the second longest tennis match is a doubles match. And this goes up for around 7 hours. 

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How Long Do College Tennis Matches Take?

NCAA(National College Athletic Association) matches last a shorter period than it usually takes in professional matches. No one at college is willing to watch 2 hours’ worth of tennis so these sets are usually done in 30-45 minutes. 

NCAA matches all begin with a round of doubles matches. These doubles are usually played over a single set no more. There are also no “lets” and to top it off, sudden death deuces are played as well.

Once this is done, six singles matches will then commence. These are then played over 3 sets and a final 10-point tie break (if necessary). 

Now with all these tweaks, a regular college singles round can be completed within 2 hours. The match overall will only take 3 hours. Even though this is the maximum limit, otherwise, it’s unlikely for college matches to last over 3 hours.

How Long Do High School Tennis Matches Take?

Some states, in particular, hold high school tennis matches that can last a whopping 4 hours. Except in Texas where matches consist of 19 individual contests. For this, a minimum of 6 hours and sometimes, even more, is not uncommon. 

Unlike college matches, there’s no universal adaptation for rules in high school matches. Typical US high school tennis matches will often begin with a boys/girls doubles round. 

Then comes mixed doubles and then finally singles matches. There’s no deuce and no extra rule to shorten it any less than it already is. There’s no ad scoring system, either. This way, there’s much more flexibility than there would be for NCAA matches. 

Different Factors That Affect the Duration of a Tennis Match

Many other factors are also held responsible for the time taken in a match. Aside from its format (which is still an important point) factors like the weather, your opponent, and the ground also make a difference. 

Regardless of whether or not your match lasts 7 hours or not — these are the factors that majorly contribute to match timings. 

#1 Weather 

This is pretty straightforward, since most matches are played outdoors (much like every other sport) the weather has a lot of influence on the match timings. It’s something that has played a major role in extending match timings. 

Throughout history, unpredictable weather has caused the match to play out for longer.

Rain delays have matches spanning multiple days.

This is most common in Grand Slams where the schedule is so tight. 

Not only rain but strong wind can also influence a match. Although the wind only increases error, higher hits, and slow pace all make for increased rally length. Ultimately, the game spans on for a longer time. 

#2 Format 

Another aspect that affects the match time is the format of play. This means the methodology you use when playing. Whether that’s volleying/rallying or aggressive play. The technique you use can determine the time length a lot.

For example, the aggressive players rely more on groundstrokes; which lowers the time in a match. A short and precise serve is what they aim for. Small hits with almost nonexistent bounce. 

It’s these little tricks that can majorly affect time. Even if it only does affect 1 or 2 minutes, multiply that by the number of times they perform the trick and suddenly it’s not so minor. 

#3 Court Surface 

As I mentioned briefly, the type of court you play on also affects the match timings. Depending on whether the match is on clay or grass can impact the finish time by a lot. 

In clay courts, the surface is relatively harder and smoother than grass. This way, it’ll tend to have shorter points since the ball has less bounce and usually travels quicker.

If the ball travels quicker this inevitably means the match is at a quicker pace, too. 

This is quite favorable for players who like an early hit, hit quicker, and enjoy huge serves. Everything from groundstrokes to coming near the net to finish it off is exceptionally well only in clay courts. 

With all these extra techniques to your aid, the match will ultimately be shorter. 

#4 Opponents 

The major factor that determines the match time is how competent the two players are. The two opposing players can either give all it takes to bring the other down, or create a momentum of defeat. 

This ranges completely on the player’s mood and mental state that day. I’m sure we’ve all seen instances where a world-class player is mediocre while a regular player performs his all. These are what make these matches such a hit. 

A famous example is when Roger Federer played Alejandro Falla at the 2010 Wimbledon. There he found himself 2 sets down and still managed to turn the whole game over; leaving a poor low-rank to cower in fear. 

This is just one example, there are hundreds more that completely change the trajectory of the match. Sometimes it’s all about power rather than their official rank and that’s the beauty of sports. 

#5 Tie-Breaks

Though a newly added feature, tiebreaks have become custom to every match held. This is mainly to prevent matches from going too long; an instance we’ve seen one too many times.

There was once a time when all 5 sets had to be played to gain a lead of 2. Now with tiebreaks, the match is sure to come to an end sooner than 6 hours. 

The idea started at Wimbledon when they had to endure a match held for approximately 11 hours. Hearing a lot of criticism from this, they decided to make a 12-12 tie break plan. 

What happens here is that there’s a 12-12 tiebreaker match in the 5th set. If such a situation is reached, there’s a 7-point tiebreaker to determine the winner. 

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Can a Tennis Match Go on Forever? 

Though there have been instances where matches were drawn out for multiple days and even hours at a minimum; a match lasting forever hasn’t happened practically. 

In theory, there’s a lot of potential for a match to last forever, especially doubles matches. It all depends on how relentless the opposing players are. If they’re both in it to win, then you’ll most likely witness the match of a lifetime. 

The Longest Singles Match In the History of Tennis 

When it comes to longevity, Wimbledon gets the crown. It all began in the 2010 Wimbledon Open between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut. The historical match was played on Court 18 on a warm sunny day and is the longest in the history of tennis.

What felt like forever was 11 hours and 5 minutes as viewers eagerly (and a bit tiredly too) awaited the next move. The 11 hours and 5 minutes were not consecutive and spanned over 3 days. 

There were a total of 183 games making it the longest singles match in history. And then afterward, Wimbledon decided one record was enough and changed the rules. 

The Shortest Singles Match In the History of Tennis

The shortest match ever in 1969 lasted only 20 minutes. This was a first-round match which is also the shortest ever. In the match, Sue Tott defeated Marion Boundy 6-1. 

There are always two ends of a spectrum. Just like there’s the longest match, there’s the shortest match too and once more, Wimbledon gets the crown. 

Methods of Speeding Up a Tennis Match

Not always should a tennis match be bound to be 11 hours long. They’re not even meant to stretch up to 6 hours either. But alas circumstances say otherwise and here we are. 

Luckily for all the newbie tennis players (and viewers), the updated rules and tips that are now incorporated lessen the play time by a large chunk. Ways of speeding up the match are as follows: 

  • Grand Slams use a final tie break to shorten the length 
  • Playing on a faster surface will only lead to fewer exchanges per point which in turn ends points faster so inevitably ends the game quicker, too. 
  • The Offensive/aggressive format of playing is correlated with a quicker ending time so can finish the match earlier. It also carries the potential of winning. 
  • If a player withdraws it’s an instant win so that can also speed the match. 
  • A disqualification of a player can also end the game immediately. It also cuts the drama. 

FAQs 

Do Tennis Matches Have a Time Limit?

Tennis itself has no rules about a time limit. The longest match ever is of 11 hours and 5 minutes while the shortest is for only 20 minutes. In case a match stretches too long, a tiebreak is played to determine the winner. 

How Long Is a Tennis Match at Wimbledon?

On average, a match at Wimbledon lasts around 90 minutes to 2 hours. Some tournaments do require players to play 5 sets which can then stretch the game to 3 hours.

How Long Is the US Open Tennis Match?

Since the US Open uses a best of 3 sets, the average time for one match ranges around 40 minutes and therefore, a match decided by 2 sets will take around 1 hour 20 minutes. However, if the 2 sets are shared and a third is necessary then the US Opens can last around 2 hours. 

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Wrap Up

That’s everything about match timings covered. From 11 hours to only 20 minutes, one can’t even begin to fathom the diverse range of timings tennis can have. 

If anyone were to tell me that an hour-long game is way too much I would laugh at them. They aren’t aware of the world of professional tennis.

 But both the player and the viewer should have patience and love to witness the game prolong. 

If you’ve no interest then it doesn’t matter how long a game lasts. That’s why for us tennis fanatics, even 11 hours seem too less when the match is just too heated! I hope the article cleared your queries. 

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