Tie-Breaker Rules for the Round-Robin Format in Tennis

Portrait of Girls on a Tennis Court Holding a Trophy

In a round-robin tennis tournament, each individual or doubles team plays every other competitor within a specific group. The team or individual that wins the most matches is declared the group’s winner. A typical round-robin tournament features several groups, with the winners of each group often meeting in a final or semifinal match. In these cases, a single winner must be chosen from each round-robin group, even if more than one competitor finishes with the same record within the group.

Head-to-Head Competition

The easiest way to break a tie between two competitors in a single round-robin format is to use head-to-head competition. The competitor who won the match between the individuals or teams is declared the winner. In a double round-robin format, of course, it’s possible for two competitors to split their matches. Depending on the number of competitors involved, it’s also possible for more than two individuals or teams to tie for first place. In this case, check the record of each competitor against the other teams or individuals that tied for first place.

In a nine-player group, for example, it’s possible for three players to tie for first with 6-2 records, while the other six players all have 3-5 records. In this case, look at each leading player’s record against the other two players who tied for first. If each has one win and one loss against the other two leaders, you’ll have to use another method. But if one leader has a 2-0 record against his co-leaders, declare that player the round-robin winner.

Percentage of Sets Won

If the competitors’ head-to-head records are equal, compare each competitor’s percentage of sets won. Extending the example of the three-way tie, if each player has a 1-1 total record against the other two leaders, compare the number of sets it took each player to win his matches. If one player won a best two-sets-of-three match against a co-leader in straight sets, while the other two required three sets to post their victories, the player who won in straight sets can be declared the winner. If each individual played the same number of sets against the co-leaders, calculate the percentage of sets each player won throughout the entire round-robin tournament.

Percentage of Games Won

If the percentage of sets won doesn’t break the tie, or if each match only consisted of one set, compare the percentage of games each competitor won. First compare the percentage of games won against the other co-leaders, then the percentage of games won throughout the entire round-robin, if necessary. If this method doesn’t break the tie, substitute the percentage of points won for the percentage of games won.

Other Methods

If the previous methods don’t break the tie, you may wish to employ a tie-breaking competition. For example, two individuals could play a standard tie-breaker, with the first player to reach seven points, with a margin of at least two points, being declared the round-robin winner. This method will be difficult if you have an odd number of co-leaders, because you would, in effect, have to conduct a mini-round-robin tie-breaking round. If all else fails, and time is short, you may be forced to flip a coin and let chance decide the winner.