'No-brainer': Tennis legend calls for shock Australian Open change

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
John McEnroe is seen here interviewing Roger Federer at the Australian Open.
John McEnroe says it's about time the fifth set format changed in men's grand slam tennis. Pic: Getty

American tennis great John McEnroe says the sport needs to consider moving with the times and do away with the marathon five-set grand slam matches that often end in the early hours of the morning.

The seven-time major winner says the epic men's contests, which can often drag on for more than five hours, have had their day.

‘NOT WELL ENOUGH’: Nadal's shock admission ahead of Aus Open

'THOUGHT IT WAS COVID': Star opens up on cancer diagnosis

‘GREAT CONCERN’: 'Troublesome' detail in Aus Open virus case

McEnroe argues that with so much choice on offer for viewers and the obvious time constraint issues of a five-set marathon, that shorter formats should be introduced to the men's grand slam events.

Tennis fans will no doubt have fond memories of Novak Djokovic's record-breaking 2012 Australian Open final victory against Rafael Nadal - a five hour and 53 minute epic that holds the title of the longest grand slam final of all time.

Pictured here, Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the 2012 Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic was the winner of the longest grand slam final in history at the 2012 Australian Open. Pic: Getty

Men's singles matches in the four slams are still the first to three sets, although tiebreaks have now been introduced to shorten fifth sets at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, along with the US Open which made the move 50 years ago.

However, McEnroe says that format is still too long and he's proposing a radical re-think that would make the Australian Open and the other grand slams look much different.

The 61-year-old says a 10-point championship tiebreaker should be introduced in place of a deciding fifth set.

"I was always looking for that solution in the middle, which is best-of-five, but say a 10-point tiebreaker at the end of the fourth set," ESPN's McEnroe said in a conference call.

"That would be my compromise. I wouldn't make it two-out-of-three now at the majors. I would still have it different.

"But we want this sport to grow, for God's sake. We shoot ourselves in the foot all the time. I don't understand it. We have this incredible sport, so we should try to make it as accessible, so that they want to tune in.

"That would be a no-brainer personally. I mean, I've been saying that for 30 years."

Fellow great backs shorter format idea

Many believe the long fifth set creates memorable drama although Wimbledon did finally bite the bullet and introduce tiebreakers after some ridiculously long deciding sets.

Kevin Anderson beat John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of their 2018 semi-final - a match lasting six hours 36 minutes.

The longest match ever also famously took place at Wimbledon in 2010 with Isner involved again, beating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in 11 hours and five minutes over three days with the final set going to 70-68.

McEnroe's compatriot Chris Evert also believes a tiebreak to 10 points would be a fair way to settle matches tied at two sets apiece in the grand slams.

"I go along the junior circuit, that's all they do, the ITFs. There's still enough points in a 10-point tiebreak so that you can play your way into the tiebreak," she said.

"It's not like a seven-point tiebreak where every point is like you're shaking in your boots."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.