The introduction of the tiebreaker in 1965, first used at Wimbledon in 1971, uses the same format for singles as the Australian Open, which for the men, means that the fifth set cannot be decided by a tiebreaker.
That format led to a marathon under a scorching sun for Ivo Karlovic and Horacio Zeballos. The two played the longest match in Australian Open history in 37-degree heat out in the hinterlands of Court 19.
The match lasted 84 games, but only the first set required a tiebreaker, which was won by Zeballos 7 – 6 (8 – 6). That first set, along with the next three, were relatively conventional in length, both in terms of games and time. Zeballos took the nest set 6 – 3 and appeared to be cruising, until Karlovic climbed back in with a 7 – 5 win in the third set and an easy 6 – 2 win in the fourth set to level the affair.
It was the fifth set that changed the arc of history. Without a tiebreaker, the old tennis rule requiring a set to be won by a minimum of two games came into play, which according to traditionalists, is the fitting way to do things. That set spanned two and a half hours, with 20th seeded Karlovic eventually walking off the court with a 22 – 20 fifth set win and a 6- 7 (8 – 6), 3 – 6, 7 – 5, 22 – 20.
Aussie fans can expect a depleted 37-year-old Karlovic to take the court against young Aussie Jordan Thompson on Thursday.