Tiebreakers

Q. Have the rules for playing a seven-point tiebreak changed recently? One of my regular tennis buddies says now the rule states the server serves from the side they were serving on during regular games of the set. This would require many ends changes, and I have a hard time believing the pros would want to do this. I am assuming he is referring to the Coman tiebreak procedure, but I cannot find that this is now the accepted way to handle tiebreaks. Can you advise?

A. The rules for a 12-point tiebreaker remain the same. However, I believe that you are referring to the Coman Tiebreak, which has strong supporters.

The Coman Tiebreak is no different than a regular tiebreaker, except that players switch ends after one point, and then every four points thereafter. This assures that a server in doubles will serve on the same side that he/she has been serving on for the whole set. It also eliminates a six-point swing (in singles or doubles) if the conditions favor a specific side (due to strong wind or difficult sun conditions).

Q. I am resending this question… How do you break a triple tie or two way tie in a round robin format of tournament?

A. Sorry for not responding immediately to your question. Prior to scheduling a round-robin competition, make sure that you have established some tie-breaking rules. For example: in the event of a tie:

1. Refer to head-to-head results in a tie. If that doesn’t work, then:

2. Use the number of sets won (or percentage of winning sets) as the determining factor.

3. Or… use the total number of games won (or percentage of games won) as the determining factor.

4. If that doesn’t work, and there is no time left… then how about an old-fashioned flip of the coin. I hope that one the tie-breakers WILL work though.

Q. What is the official rule for who starts to serve the next set after playing a tiebreaker?

A. If you started serving first in the last set, then your opponent begins the next set. Another way of stating this is that if your opponent served the last game before the tiebreaker, then he will also start serving in the next set.

Q. In our third set USTA league doubles match we had to play a "Coleman" tie-breaker. According to the Coleman rules, as I understand them, we are supposed to switch sides after the first point, and then after every 4 points. In other words, we switch when the sum of the score/points is 1, 5, 9, 13, etc.

However, on this one particular night after playing two points we realized that we failed to switch sides after the first point. I pointed out that we are to correct the error immediately, and then proceed as the Coleman was supposed to be played out. We agreed to switch sides immediately to correct the error. However, my opponent, let's call him "Larry", refused to switch back after the 4th point was played because he insisted that he was supposed to serve on the same side throughout the entire Coleman tie-breaker. I told him that feature applies only if your first turn to serve is on the same side you have always been serving, and in this case his point was irrelevant because we are supposed to respect the Coleman rules. My partner and I insisted that we are to switch at 1, 5, 9, 13, etc. but they refused, and insisted that we switch every fourth point but at the score sums of 3, 7, 11, 15, etc.

Was I correct, or was Larry correct?

A. The Coman Tiebreak procedure is the same as a regular Match Tiebreak except that ends are changed after the first point, than after every four points, and at the conclusion of the Tiebreak. Yes, it is intended that players in doubles do maintain there serving side that they utilized during the set and in singles the format is meant to provide no one player a 6 point initial sun and or/wind advantage.

In your case, you would have been on track had you switched after the fifth point.

Q. Since its inception I've heard it touted as the Coman tiebreaker; now you've referred to it as the "Coleman" tiebreaker. Is this another new method, have you changed the spelling, or did someone just mis-hear and type it incorrectly? Or has it been wrong all along?

A. The correct name is Coman Tiebreak. Someone along the line must have mis-heard or mis-spelled the still relatively obscure format that has great logic and fairness, but remains slow to be adopted by most events.

Thanks for your question and I hope you win most Tiebreaks’ you play!

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