Exploring Alternative Score Keeping Formats


Tennis, a sport with a rich history and a distinct score keeping system, has seen various changes and adaptations over the years. While traditional scoring formats like 'best of five' sets for men and 'best of three' for women in Grand Slams are well-established, there's growing interest in alternative scoring formats. These alternatives aim to add excitement, reduce match durations, and make the sport more appealing to a broader audience. Let's delve into some of these innovative scoring formats that are reshaping tennis.

No-Ad Scoring

The No-Ad format, increasingly common in college tennis and some professional doubles matches, eliminates the advantage points. When a game reaches deuce (40-40), the next point wins the game. 

Match Tie-Break in Lieu of Final Set

In this format, instead of playing a traditional final set, players compete in a tiebreak to ten points when they're locked at one set all (or 2 sets all for a 5 set match). It's a format adopted in many doubles competitions and some singles tournaments, especially where scheduling and player fatigue are considerations. This change ensures matches don't extend for excessively long periods, which can be particularly beneficial in tournaments with tight schedules.

'First to' or 'Sudden Death' Tiebreaks

Another variation reduces the time played in traditional tiebreaks, where the player must win by 2 pts. In this format the first player to win the tiebreak pt (i.e. 7 or 10) wins.

Fast4 Tennis / Short Sets

Introduced by Tennis Australia, Fast4 combines no-ads, match tie-breaks, with fewer games per set to create a faster, more intense experience. The format is gaining popularity world-wide in exhibition matches and juniors tournaments where managing time and energy is crucial. 

  • No Advantage game points (first to 4 pts)
  • 4 games per set (best of 4)
  • 'First to' 7-pt set tiebreak at set score of 3 games all (3-3).
  • 3 sets per match
  • 'First to' 10-pt match tiebreak at 1 set all (1-1).

This format significantly reduces the duration of matches, ensuring a high-energy, high-impact experience and is gaining in popularity 

Pro Sets / Single Set Tiebreak 

These are high-pressure formats where matches are decided by a single tie-break. This format has been embraced for its simplicity and the constant edge-of-the-seat excitement it provides. It's particularly popular for Junior High School exhibition matches and charity events, as it allows for a series of quick-fire matches in a single evening.

  • Single set, 8-pt tiebreak (pts can vary)
  • Simple, no-ad scoring (15,30,40,game or 1,2,3,4)


These alternative scoring formats in tennis are not just about making matches shorter; they're about adapting the game to modern audiences, maintaining player health, and adding new strategic dimensions. While they may not replace traditional scoring in the most prestigious tournaments anytime soon, their growing popularity and acceptance indicate a willingness in the tennis community to innovate and evolve. As the sport continues to adapt to the changing times, it's exciting to think about what the future of tennis scoring might look like.

Related Topics: 

Traditional Rules for Tennis Score Keeping
The Unique History of Tennis Score Keeping
The History of Grand Slam Tennis,
Rules for Server Rotation and Player Position

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