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How Long Does A Tennis Match Last?

How Long Does a Tennis Match Last?
Pictured here is the scoreboard for a typical tennis match. The match is tightly contested, meaning it will likely last for a couple of hours.
Average Tennis Match Length2.5 Hours
Shortest Match40 Minutes
Longest Match11 Hours

How Are Tennis Matches Scored?

In order to understand why some tennis matches take longer to complete than others, it's important to gain a basic understanding of the scoring system used in tennis.

Tennis matches are broken down into sets, with men needing to win three out of a maximum five sets compared to two out of three for women.

Within each set are a series of games. The first point in a game is scored as 15-0, followed by 30 and 40. Once a player reaches a score of 40 (three points won), an additional point results in the game being awarded to that player. All games are required to be won by a margin of two points. In other words, if the score is deadlocked at 40-40 (known as deuce), then the eventual game winner must win two successive points. This process can last for a long while, so a match that consists of several games that reach 40-40 tends to take a significant amount of time to complete.

The first player to reach six games wins the set. However, sets must also be won by a two game margin (i.e. six games to four). If two players are tied at six sets a piece, a tiebreak must be played to determine the winner of the set.

What Is a Rally in Tennis?

The term 'rally' in tennis is used to describe a point that takes a long time to complete. Often times, two players will continually return the ball back to one another until one of them makes an unforced error (i.e. hitting the ball into the net or out of bounds). Since there is no time limit on each individual point, long rallies cause matches to last for several hours in most cases.

What Is an Ace in Tennis?

The term 'ace' in tennis refers to a serve that the non-serving player is unable to return. Serves that are well placed and hit with great speed are usually hard to handle, allowing the serving player to win a point with one single hit. Since the ball is not successfully returned in play when an ace occurs, matches with an abundance of aces last for a shorter period of time.