Best Of 5 vs Best Of 3 In Tennis 

Tennis players and viewers are sometimes confronted with a variety of perplexing phrases and notions. A few examples are deuce, hawkeye, and let. Tennis players that advance through ranks ultimately take part in match play. A certain number of sets must be won for a match to be won. So, you might be wondering what’s best-of-3 and best-of-5 matches. 

In a best-of-3 set match, you need to win 2 of the sets. Tennis matches are often played in a best-of-3 set fashion throughout 2 or 3 sets. Most men’s matches, along with all women’s and junior matches, are played in this format. 

Best-of-5 matches are harder since a win requires 3 set victories. These matches consist of 3, 4, and even 5 sets. Davis Cup and some male Grand Slam competitions are best-of-5 matches and very well-known. 

To understand the advantages and disadvantages of each of these formats, let’s discuss them in more depth. We will talk about tennis events that combine both match types, professional players’ perspectives, and potential tennis match forms for the future. 

How Do Players Win a Match in Best-of-3 or Best-of-5 Sets? 

Players must prevail in 2 of 3 sets in a best-of-3 match. There are 3 possible outcomes: a player might win 2 straight sets, recover from a set deficit to win the final 2 sets, or win the first set and the third one. 

When 3 out of 5 sets have been won, the best-of-5 match is declared over. There are more possible outcomes in these games; for instance, a player might win in 3 sets one after the other or recover from a 2-set deficit. After dropping the first 3 sets, they might still win in 4 sets. 

Sometimes there is no last set in a best-of-3 match. The winners are decided after only one tiebreak rather than a complete play set. 

What Are Deciding Sets? 

In best-of-3 matches, where players get tied at a set each, the deciding set is the 3rd set, whereas, in best-of-5 matches, where players get tied at 2 sets each, the decisive set is the fifth. A tiebreak is almost always used in the last set in professional and junior tournaments to determine the winner. 

In Grand Slams, on the other hand, this couldn’t be the case because each event has its unique set of regulations. 

To decide sets, the Australian Open has instituted the ”super tiebreak.” The player should reach 10 or more points with the 2 advantage to win a tiebreak and not 7 or more points with the 2 advantage. 

The French Open is still lacking a tiebreaker for the last set. For the match to be won after 6 games of even scores, 1 player should break serve so that the 2-game lead is taken. 

In 2018, at Wimbledon was instituted a tiebreaker in the last set, yet at 12-12 rather than 6-6. 

At the US Open, the major with a regular final-set tiebreak is 6-6. 

Where Is Each Format Being Played? 

Grand Slams 

Best-of-5 

Matches lasting over 3 sets have only male participants who are required to play best-of-5 sets in singles draws of the 4 Grand Slam competitions. Other majors use the best-of-3 format for men’s doubles matches, whereas Wimbledon uses the best-of-5 format. The best-of-3 format is used in every of the other Grand Slam draws such as women’s singles, wheelchair, mixed double, etc. 

For players to have energy at the main competition, Grand Slam qualifying matches usually last 2 or 3 sets. The last men’s qualifying round at Wimbledon is the best-of-5 format and an anomaly. 

Keep in mind that mixed doubles follow the best-of-3 format and there is a tiebreak. However, Wimbledon makes an exception. Pairs must win at tiebreak rather than playing a full set. 

Davis Cup and Olympics 

Best-of-3 

The best-of-5 format at the men’s Davis Cup tournament was recently eliminated. 

Up to the Olympics in 2020 (which were played in 2021), the tournament’s matches were best-of-3 until the best-of-5 final. All games at the Olympics are now best-of-3. 

ATP&WTA Tour  

Best-of-3 

Historically, the Masters ATP Tour 1000 events were contested when played in the format best-of-5, yet this is no longer the case for the ATP & WTA Tour Best-Of-3 Finals. At these prestigious tournaments, both men’s and women’s matches are now limited to 3 sets. 

Future ATP and Challenger circuits, as well as the ATP 250, ATP 500, and all WTAs, are all just best-of-3 competitions. 

What Advantages Do Best-of-3 Set Matches Offer? 

Fairness. Tennis players with less experience won’t be intimidated by a 2- or 3-set match, so they’re more inclined to play fearlessly. Additionally, the shorter length gives them a chance against more seasoned and strong opponents. Therefore, it can be said that best-of-3 competitions are fair, surprising, and thrilling. 

More Appealing. 2- or 3-set matches are longer and easier for novice viewers to follow. Potential tennis followers might no longer be interested in a 5-set match because it takes more than 5 hours to complete. New fans may watch a shorter match to experience the drama, and this increases their appetite to watch some more tennis. 

Best-of-3 matches demand less of the career of a professional player. As a sport, tennis is demanding and requires players to invest a lot of time in practice. 

Convenience. Scheduling 3-set quicker matches are simpler. Fortunately, all Grand Slam competitions on major courts now have roofs, whereas some other professional matches are held outdoors, except for stadium and indoor competitions. Rain delays may shorten the amount of playable time and push games to later dates. Best-of-3 games lessen the likelihood of this occurring and enable on-time completion of events. 

What Advantages Do Best-of-5 Set Matches Offer? 

Excitement. Even while exceptionally lengthy matches may turn off casual viewers, the most thrilling historical matches have lasted 5 sets or more. Epic marathon battles that could have never taken place in the best-of-3 format have kept people attentive at every Grand Slam. There’s nothing more exciting than the fifth set in a tight match. 

Unusual. Only a select few prestigious events provide best-of-5 matches. Most tournaments use shorter formats. For most events, 2 and sometimes 3 sets are beneficial to players’ bodies. Men only need to get ready for lengthier matches in the prestigious Grand Slams and sometimes for the Davis Cup. 

Elite Competition. According to some analysts and spectators, the Grand Slam tournaments’ extended structure separates average players from the greatest players, who must conquer the physical barrier of both 4 and 5 sets to win awards and build a name for themselves in tennis history. In addition, they need to win 7 straight games. A Grand Slam win may lose importance if sets numbers would be reduced. 

Comebacks. Players have a distinct chance of making a comeback in 4 or 5 set contests. After dropping a set with a break in 1 best-of-3 match, the player may quickly find himself out of the running. In a best-of-5 match, this is no longer accurate. The player might be behind in sets by 2-1 or 2-0 and yet have a reasonable opportunity to come back and win. These lengthier battles enable a contender to maintain their aspirations if they have a good mental game. 

What Game Offers More Quality? 

For a while, let’s return to the topic of tennis quality. A best-of-3 is, on average, shorter, yet no one claimed that it has a poorer quality. The story is just different. Although it’s the same format as with the newly designated WTA 250 tournaments, women’s tennis does not use a best-of-5, and often we can talk about how amazing these matches are or how difficult winning a Grand Slam is. The competition level is very important. 

For men’s championships, it was never shown how any Grand Slam event would do under the best-of-3 format in terms of attracting both quantitative (ticket sales, audiences) and qualitative (social media reaction, satisfaction metrics) indices.

Why wouldn’t it work for men if it appears to work so great for women? We have amazing matches in 3 sets and even 2 straight, after all. Additionally, only because shorter matches are an option doesn’t guarantee that they will happen for every event. Women’s matches are known to go for longer than 3 hours, while the lengthiest men’s match ever played in best-of-3 lasted over 4 hours.  

So, is the quality of tennis affected in a best-of-3 match? No. In no way. It’s more probable that circumstances like injuries, tournament size, and exhaustion impact quality. And regrettably, in a best-of-5, these unfortunate events are more frequent. On the other hand, getting over exhaustion puts up for a very good show.  

Final Thoughts  

Grand Slams have seen several promising young athletes fall short of making their mark, particularly on the men’s side. People are now debating whether they should completely abandon the best-of-5 format because of this. 

Best-of-5 games should continue to be used in Grand Slam competitions, says Dominic Thiem. These battles are not only an ultimate physical challenge but also a mental one, adds Pat Cash. 

Novak Djokovic shows some interest in switching to the best-of-3 format, whereas Rafael Nadal prefers best-of-5 competitions because they ask more of players. 

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