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  • Wimbledon has done a masterful job in recent years of reshaping and modernizing its own image. The decision to implement final-set tiebreakers at 12-12 is but the latest in a long line of welcomed innovations by the All-England Club.
By Jon Wertheim
October 19, 2018

Just 98 days after the 99-game serve-fest between John Isner and Kevin Anderson highlighted how badly Wimbledon needed a final-set tiebreaker, the powers that be at the All England Club announced Friday that, starting in 2019, tiebreaks will be held at 12-12 in the decisive final set for both men and women. 

It's but the latest in a long string of welcomed innovations by Wimbledon, which has done a masterful job in reshaping and modernizing its image in recent years. Here are some takeaways from the announcement and its implications. 

The modern Wimbledon is a better Wimbledon

We've seen the All England Club show a willingness to adapt, leaving behind its tradition-over-everything outlook for a more modern one that embraces technology and listens to fan sentiment. The tournament has the best digital coverage of any of the four majors. It has multiple courts with coverage to expedite play and prevent delays. And now it has listened and adopted a significant change swiftly and effectively. It's somewhat ironic that Wimbledon has taken the reigns as the most progressive of the four majors, but that's exactly what's happened. Your move, Australian Open and Roland Garros. 

12-12 is the right number

There was some talk of having a final-set breaker at 6-6, as the U.S. Open does, or even 9-9. But Wimbledon got it right by going with 12-12. It gives the players the opportunity to play a full extra set before mobing into a tiebreaker. If you can't break serve by the end of an extra set, it's time to bring the match to a merciful end. 

The breaker will give the eventual winner a better chance moving forward

The winner of a match that goes more than 24 games in the final set isn't really much of a winner at all, simply because he or she will be absolutely spent for the next match. We were deprived of a competitive men's final this year because Kevin Anderson's legs were about to fall off after back-to-back fifth sets that went 24 and 50 games, respectively. While there will still be a significant reward for finishing a match quickly, capping things with this final-set breaker will allow the winner more of a chance to compete effectively in his or her following match. 

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The tiebreaker should be called an "Isner"

Isner was the common thread in the two matches that most plainly made clear the need for this tiebreak. Of course, he famously beat Nicolas Mahut in a still-hard-to-believe 70-68 fifth set back in 2010. Then the big American was on the wrong side of that six-hour, 36-minute marathon with Anderson in this year's semifinal. Thus, it's only right that Wimbledon officially name the final-set tiebreaker the Isner. 

This will likely affect men more than women

Simply because break rates are significantly higher in women's tennis. But good on Wimbledon for enacting the rule equally for both men and women. 

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)