How does a tennis match last?

Predicting the duration of a tennis match can be a tricky subject.

Since tennis matches don’t run on a clock and sets are won when a player gets to 6 points, with a minimum of two points advantage, tennis matches can be as fast or as slow as one player can overpower the other.

There are several different formats of tennis, with different sets of rules.

So how long is a tennis match?

A typical three-set match lasts for an average of 90 minutes, while a five-set match (Grand Slams) lasts, on average, 2 hours, and 45 minutes.

The shortest professional tennis match ever lasted only 18 minutes – a match won by Jack Harper against J. Sandiford in the 1946 Surrey Open Hard-Court Championships.

The longest professional tennis match recorded lasted for an impressive 11 hours and 5 minutes (!) and was played for 3 days. John Isner defeated Nicholas Mahut in the 2010 edition of the Wimbledon Grand Slam.

Let’s dive in on how long a tennis set, three-set and five-set matches are, among other formats. Feel free to jump to any part of this article using the links below.

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How long is a tennis set?

The duration of a tennis set depends on a few factors, namely the type of court in which the game is played (grass, clay, or other) and the skill difference between the players involved.

On average, a typical set takes 40 minutes.

Slow surfaces, like clay, encourage longer rallies – so, on this surface, a set will typically last a little bit longer. Surfaces like grass give more speed to the ball, so you can expect a set played on this type of surface to last less than 40 minutes, on average.

The longest tennis set ever played was in the already mentioned longest tennis match ever, where the final set lasted for 8 hours and 11 minutes – fun fact, this set was longer than the previous record for the longest tennis match.

The average duration of a Three Set Match

naomi osaka tired

A three-set match, the most common type of match played, takes on average 1 hour and 30 minutes to be played.

However, this value is average and is highly dependent on the quality of the players involved.

If the match is decided on two quick sets, it may last under 1 hour. If the match is tight and runs through three competitive, close sets, it will typically last between 2 or 3 hours.

How long are Five-Set Matches?

tennis match duration

The duration of a typical five-set match is between 2 hours and 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Again, these values greatly depend on the quality of the players. If the match is resolved quickly, it can last between 1 hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes. If five sets are needed to complete the match, it can last 4 or even more than 5 hours.

Five-set matches are decided at the best-of-three rule. This means the first player to win three sets wins the match.

This is the kind of rule that is applied to Grand Slams, the biggest tennis tournaments in the world – the US Open, Australian Open. Roland Garros and Wimbledon, in the men’s competition. Women still play three-set matches in all professional competitions.

How long are Doubles Matches?

tennis doubles

Double matches last, on average, 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Doubles matches usually take much less time to complete than singles, due to the nature of the match.

Since one player is typically at the net, a lot of volleys happen, and endless rallies are often broken quickly by the player in the net

How long are college tennis matches?

College tennis matches typically last 2 to 3 hours – usually, the singles part of the match takes below 2 hours, and the part of the doubles is usually under 1 hour.

College matches have different rules than the ATP – they follow the NCAA rules.

The game is played by teams, using multiple courts simultaneously – starting with doubles matches and then, they go into singles matches.

There are no lets nor advantages and coaching is allowed, among other rules that differ from the standard ATP rules making this type of tennis very entertaining to watch.

How long are High School Tennis matches?

high school tennis

High School Tennis matches will typically last over 4 hours, and even more than 6 hours matches can happen.

This is due to there being no official format, but they will often begin with boys and girls doubles match, followed by mixed doubles, culminating in singles matches.

Since the no-ad scoring system is not used in these kinds of matches, the match length can vary much more than it does on matches that follow the ATP or NCAA rules.

Other factors that can affect the duration of a tennis match

Tiebreak situations

Whenever a set can’t be won by the advantage of two points, a tie-break is required.

In typical three-set matches, tiebreaks begin when the score of 6-6 is reached (at Wimbledon, the tiebreak begins at 12-12).

Then they go into a single point mode (meaning that one point literally counts for one point, instead of the 15-30-40-point rule) and the first player to reach 7 points with the advantage of 2 points, wins the set.

If a player reaches 7 points but does not have the advantage of 2 points, the tiebreak will continue indefinitely until one of the players reaches the 2 points advantage.

A tiebreak can make a match last indefinitely – the longest one was recorded in 2013 in a match between Benjamin Balleret and Guillaume Couillard at the $10.000 Men’s Futures tournament qualifications, where the first won the tie-break by 36-34.

Breaks

taking a tennis break

Breaks can also impact the duration of a game, but only residually.

In games that follow the five-set format, players are allowed two bathroom breaks per match. In the standard three-set format, only one bathroom break is allowed.

These breaks can only occur between sets and should not last longer than 3 minutes.

Players can have 2-minute breaks to change clothes.

At last, there are medical timeouts, that can last indefinitely, and is up to the umpire (the tennis referee) when to stop the match if a player is not fit to continue playing.

To Wrap Up

The duration of a tennis match is unpredictable and dependent on the type of rules that are applied, the type of surface, and the skill of the players.

A typical three-set match lasts 90 minutes on average, and a five-set match takes around 150 minutes to be complete.

However, these numbers can be greatly reduced or exceeded, so be prepared to watch a 4 or 5 hours matches when competitive, Grand Slam players are involved – these are often the most memorable and enjoyable games to watch!