Kevin Anderson, Karen Khachanov weigh in on new Australian Open final-set tiebreak rule

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Anderson is the defending champion in Abu Dhabi this week.

Kevin Anderson admits it’s “weird” having a different set of rules for the final set at each of the four Grand Slams but believes playing a first-to-10 points tiebreak at the Australian Open won’t be that different to contesting a regular seven-point one.

The Australian Open announced recently that a final-set tiebreak will be introduced to the 2019 edition in an effort to limit the length of matches.

But instead of implementing a regular first-to-seven points tiebreak, the Melbourne showpiece have decided on a first-to-10 points format, to be played at 6-all in the final set.

The news came on the heels of Wimbledon’s announcement earlier this year regarding the introduction of final-set tiebreaks to be contested at 12-all in the fifth set for men’s matches and third set for the women.

The US Open has a regular final-set tiebreak played at 6-all, while the French Open follows a win-by-two-games format for the final sets of its matches.

The latest changes mean that players will have to adapt playing under different final set rules at each of the four majors.

“It is kind of weird, and interesting I guess. Each one is different,” sixth-ranked Anderson told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday ahead of the start of his title defence at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).

“I’m sure French Open will change it at some point in time. And it will be interesting to see how progress is the next few years. They’re just trying to be a bit unique in their own ways when it comes to what they’re doing in the fifth-setters but I don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference as long as it’s not an endless [set], where it keeps going on and on.”

The Australian Open said the decision to opt for a 10-point tiebreak was based on “the most extensive consultation in the tournament’s history”.

“We went with a 10-point tiebreak at six-games-all in the final set to ensure the fans still get a special finale to these often epic contests, with the longer tiebreak still then allowing for that one final twist or change of momentum in the contest. This longer tiebreak also can lessen some of the serving dominance that can prevail in the shorter tiebreak,” explained Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley.

Anderson doesn’t think the change in length of the tiebreak will affect the players much.

“At the end of the day they’re realising that just having a full long fifth set is not the ideal situation and it just seems like they maybe just trying to be a little bit different. Whether it’s 10 or seven I don’t think makes any difference at all,” said the South African.

“I think a normal tiebreaker would have been fine but I think it’s a little interesting take of making it first to 10. Just like Wimbledon going to 12-all as opposed to just keeping it at 6-all, I think it would have been fine just having it in the normal set-up but I think it’s still a good step forward reducing the long five-setters.”

World No. 11 Karen Khachanov, who makes his MWTC debut against Dominic Thiem on Thursday, also weighed in on the subject.

“It’s a little bit different… that they cannot maybe negotiate and make one rule for all the tournaments but on the other side it makes a little bit of difference between all of them so we have to try to adjust how to play,” said the Russian.

“I don’t know if it’s easier or tougher because at the end you’re playing with an opponent, you don’t play just alone on the court. He has the same conditions, he has the same rules, so it’s the same for both guys, so it doesn’t matter if it’s up to seven or up to 10 or up to five, it will be the same thing.”

The 11th edition of the MWTC kicks off with three matches on Thursday.

4pm (local time): Kevin Anderson v Chung Hyeon

6pm: Dominic Thiem v Karen Khachanov

8pm: Serena Williams v Venus Williams

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