how long do tennis matches last?

How Long Do Tennis Matches Last? 10+ Examples Full Guide


The duration of a tennis match at the professional level is not fixed and generally does not end until one player wins 3 out of 5 sets. It is not uncommon for a match to last well below an hour, and many high-level matches go on for three hours or more. 

This means that players have to be prepared for a very long game, which can lead to mental fatigue as it requires hours of concentration on both physical and strategic aspects. 

It has been shown that this type of sport demands more from the brain than other sports because, in addition to being a physical activity requiring strength and balance, it also involves considerable mental energy due to its complexity. In order to avoid exhaustion or confusion during play, many tennis players take breaks between games by drinking water or eating light snacks such as bananas.

How much do tennis matches last? – Summary

The length of tennis matches can vary due to many factors such as the style of play, the conditions of play, and the type of surface and scoring format. These are the averages of how long a tennis match will last.

  1. An average tennis match lasts between 90 minutes and 120 minutes.
  2. A match in the format of the best of 3 sets will last between 60 minutes up to 120 minutes.
  3. A Grand Slam best of 5 sets match will usually last longer, between 120 minutes up to 180 minutes and more.
  4. Some matches are being suspended, so match duration may even top the averages in that case.
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One of the main reasons for this variability in duration is that, unlike other sports, tennis does not have a fixed time limit. The reason? Unlike football or basketball where players are confined to their respective halves of the court, there’s no set number of minutes before which one player or team has to win. 

With tennis being an endurance sport it can take longer than expected if one player plays with more energy and determination than another who might be tired after playing a set and a half already.

5 set match debate in tennis

Tennis Match duration in best of 5 sets

The rules of the game are what make tennis such an exciting sport.

In tennis, the scoring system is a fundamental aspect of determining how long a match will last. It also helps with predicting what time it will take you to win your next game. The best of 3 sets and the best of 5 sets are different because they both affect players mentally and physically and usually you can’t predict how long they will take.

In Grand Slams’ five-set matches, the system is similar in that they share four sets with a difference: no matter how many games each player has won so far at 6 or 7 wins, whoever reaches it first will win. However, for the fifth set of 5 and beyond of these grand slams (i.e., Australian Open), there’s variation depending on which one we’re talking about.

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Grand Slams have taken action in order to shorten the length of their matches by setting a final tiebreak at their fifth set, excluding the French Open that plays traditionally with a normal fifth set.

Australian OpenSuper tiebreak up to 10 points in the fifth set.
French OpenNo tiebreak in the final set.
WimbledonTiebreak up to 7 points at 12-12.
US OpenTiebreak up to 7 points at 6-6.

It’s no wonder that the best of 5 set matches can be grueling to watch. If you want a more dynamic and engaging tennis experience, you often watching the first two sets then switching over to another channel or event before coming back for the third set.

Because of the longer format, mental instability over several long periods of time, and ups and downs for each player in a best-of-five-set match are expected. Players come back from two sets down sometimes too. Sometimes players come back from a 2-0 deficit or worse. 

So usually it takes between 2 hours up to 3 1/2 hours or more depending on conditions such as weather or how intense one player plays against another during this kind of tournament competition.

5 set match lengthMinimumMaximum

*Minimum game consists of 4 points (40-0)

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*Maximum game lasts of 8 points (40-40)

Tennis match duration in best of 3 sets

In a three-set match, the winner is whoever wins two sets. Each set consists of six games, unless there’s a tie at 5 points then it becomes a ‘tie breaker’ and you have to score 7 points before your opponent does, plus win by 2 point advantage.

To win a tennis match that is played for the best of 3 sets, we need to be on court until we win 2 sets regardless if our opponent wins one. For example, winning 6-3 and then losing 6-4 but winning the third set 6-2 would count as us having won a three-set match.

Matches in the women’s tour or the ATP tour which aren’t Grand Slams take place in the format of best of 3 sets. These allow to pull off various tactics and strategies that aid in shortening the match time, like Federer himself strategically uses in order to assist him to play at older age, like the SABR technique.

What should be a casual game of 3 sets of tennis can quickly turn into an intense battle between two competitors. A match length depends on the intensity and conditions, but a best out of 3 set matches in tennis usually takes between 60 minutes and 120 minutes or more. 

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3 set match lengthMinimumMaximum

*Minimum game consists of 4 points (40-0)

*Maximum game lasts of 8 points (40-40)

What affects the duration of a tennis match?

The factors which affect the longevity of a tennis match are:

  1. The difference in levels between two opponents.
  2. The determination one has to keep playing even though things seem not to go for him.
  3. The tendency to pull off unforced errors which usually makes the match longer for each side.
  4. The format of play, ‘best of 3’ or ‘best of 5’ sets.
  5. Style of play could affect the duration of the match, with serve and volley style players ending a match in up to 53 minutes like Roger Federer once did. As opposed to players like Nadal that often play a few hours because their style consists of long exhausting rallies.
  6. Type of court surface can lead to shorter points or longer ones, consequently contributing to the longevity of a match.
  7. The mentality of each player could lead to matches of up to 11 hours long.
  8. Some matches are being suspended during weather conditions, which can artificially lengthen the duration of the match.

A great tennis player can shorten a match, but it will always depend on the opponent. It’s not just about how good you are at playing; even if your service is perfect and you score many aces during that time, there’s still no guarantee that the game would end quickly. 

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In fact, in some cases, an excellent performance from one competitor might lead to a longer-than-usual duration of the match because their adversary has been pushed back so far! The skill level of each individual player does affect how long a tennis match lasts – but only up until they’ve scored enough points for victory or have lost by being defeated twice while serving.

The debate around Best of 5 matches

The debate in the tennis world is whether the best of 5 matches should be continued. The reason for this debate, as aforementioned, are that players are becoming more and physical throughout games. Making it so that games almost always reach four hours or over per match. This can lead to extremely exhausting finals in which both athletes have been battling all day long. Is this really good?

A few professional tennis players have expressed themselves in this regard, with the most prominent ones being Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic which are in favor of switching to Best of 3 configurations for all tournaments in the men’s tour.

Tennis is the longest season of any sport in existence. It starts from January 1st and goes until November when there are still tournaments happening all over the world every single week! Changing to best-of-three sets everywhere would reduce so many matches tennis players have during this long year, allowing players time for rest as well.

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Supporters of Best of 5 matches have their own fair share of arguments. The argument to keep Best of 5 matches in the tennis world is that they generate excitement and suspense. They create a more thrilling experience for players, viewers, and organizers as each set can potentially be won by anyone player at any time. 

It contributes to excitement in the sport because there’s more drama during longer games with upsets happening frequently.

These are part of the tradition so it would not make sense to do away with them completely because there will always be people who prefer this format over others such as best-of-three matches or even those who enjoy both like myself!

They also claim that it allows tournaments organizers to earn additional revenue from extended live viewing, broadcast deals, etc.

The variance between men and women playtime

Tennis matches are often too short. There is a marked difference between playing time for men and women in tennis, which could be explained because the game’s power comes from serving set-up, court changes, court decisions, and sometimes judge discussions.

A study shows how the duration of matches varies based on gender with women playing for longer periods of time than men. This could be attributed to the differences in power between male-centric and female-centric play styles.

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However, while women tend to have longer rallies in their matches, men usually suffer the burden of playing the best of 5 sets up to this day. As opposed to women that play ‘best of 3 sets’ even on grand slams, which leads to fewer sensations and shorter match durations.

Ways of shortening a tennis match

  1. Grand slams are using a final set tie break in order to shorten the length of the match.
  2. Playing on a faster surface will lead to fewer exchanges per point, which will end points faster, and help to decide the match faster also.
  3. Offensive and aggressive playing style is usually correlated to winning quickly and shortening the length of a match in tennis.
  4. The withdrawal of one player can end a tennis match as early as in the first minute.
  5. A disqualification of a certain player might end a match in the middle, cutting the drama.

What are the effects of long tennis matches?

In tennis, strategies are a fundamental part. Concentration proves to be a key to achieving victory. The psychological component is therefore very important in the game of tennis because it’s about maintaining concentration for hours on end and then making quick decisions that can make or break your success as a player. Have you ever been playing in a tournament when your body starts going numb from fatigue? 

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If so, you know what I’m talking about! This feeling may cause you to start thinking too much and lose focus on the match at hand– don’t let this happen! 

You need mental toughness and the ability to maintain concentration for hours on end in order to play at an elite level. The brain is what makes or breaks champions; don’t neglect its power when playing!

There’s no substitute for training yourself mentally before heading into an event but there are methods such as meditation that have proven successful in improving performance by reducing stress levels and anxiety leading up to a match.

Actual Play Time in a Tennis Match

Remember that each set has a minimum length and maximum length so it’s important to keep track of time during play if you want your game-time predictions accurate!

The duration of a tennis match is calculated from the moment the first ball is thrown to the moment in which the last point is scored. Generally, this is called the duration of a match, and it is what’s being shown on the clock on the court.

However, there’s another interesting aspect which is the actual play time in a tennis match. How much time the ball actually is in play in a tennis match?

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To calculate this, you need data on how many games are played during the match and what time percentage of actual play each one takes up. There aren’t any statistics about that. The only one being that players actually play around 16% of the time, wasting the rest.

Minimum playtime

In general, you need to win at least 6 games in order to win a set in tennis. And if you assume that each game is won with no opposition, at 40-0, then it would take you at least a number of 24 points in order to win a set. To win a two-set match you would need to win 48 points, and to win a three-set match you would need 72 points.

Studies have shown that the actual playtime in a point in tennis is about 10-20 seconds and the rest is being dedicated to preparing and resting between points.

Therefore we can calculate that the minimum actual playtime in a tennis match would actually be around 15 minutes of play. 

Maximum playtime

Whereas if you were to play the match to the fullest, each game would reach 40-40 and each set to a tiebreak, it would of course take longer.

When a game is won after reaching 40-40, there are 8 points played. If the set reaches 6-6, it means there are 12 games played. And if the tiebreak reaches 6-6 also, there are about 14 points played in it. So concluding that one set would require at most 110 points to play. A two-set match would last 220 points whereas a three-set long match would last 330 points.

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That would lead us to the conclusion that it can take between 15 minutes of actual playtime up to about 80 minutes if the match is very tied.

it can take between 1 hour 30 minutes to 3 hours for two players with different levels of experience to play against each other for an entire match.

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