This is a question that is very difficult to answer, if only because, unlike other sports, there is no time regulation for the match. There are so many different factors that you can talk about an average duration, a probable or possible duration, and a record duration, but you can’t talk about a set duration, like how long a football game lasts.
What matters is that one of the two tennis players (or one of the two couples, if we are talking about doubles) wins the number of sets established by the rules of the match. How long does it take? Well, that’s another matter.
When top-ranked tennis players play lower-ranked opponents, it’s not uncommon for the score to get close to (or even reach) double- or triple-digits. In the four rounds of the men’s slams, scores of 6-0 are common, but that doesn’t mean the match will be over quickly. For example, a game can be won with four aces, which takes just over a minute, but there can be an infinite number of points between break points and advantages.
If we talk about the duration of a match, it is therefore better to focus on the cases that have written the history of this sport. Those matches that were legendary in terms of duration, either because they didn’t even have time to take the field or because the match turned into a real marathon.
Leading the list of longest matches of all time is a match from a Grand Slam tournament, to be precise, which was played at Wimbledon. This is no surprise because it’s one of the few tournaments that involves playing best-of-five sets. In addition, we remember that until 2019, the fifth set of a match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club could not predict the tiebreak. This meant that one of the two players had to break the other to win the match.
Therefore, cases such as the Isner-Mahut marathon of the 2010 edition occur. With its 665 minutes of duration, or eleven hours and five minutes, this is by far the longest match in the history of professional tennis. They started the fifth set at 14:07 and went off the court again a few minutes after nine. The total of the fifth set is 59 all, for a 424-minute marathon that the two impose on the referee but not on the ball boys, who changed five times.
Therefore, it takes another 67 minutes of play on court, which in the meantime has become the center of the tennis world, for Isner to get the final game, the one that is worth 70–68. To understand the absurdity of the question, it would be enough to think that the second longest match is “just” 7 hours and one minute, a Davis Cup double between the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The most curious part? Isner is also ranked fourth in marathon matches, having lost to Anderson in the Wimbledon 2018 semifinals after six hours and 36 minutes.
Nevertheless, you can easily go a long way even in a best-of-three-set match. To tell the story, there is the semifinal of the London Olympic Games in 2012, which pits Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro against each other. Surprisingly for tennis betting odds, the Argentine wins the first set 3-6, then the Swiss evens the score with a 7-6(5).
However, even in the five-round event, the last set does not have a tie-break, and therefore, it takes a long time to understand who will face Murray in the final. In the end, Federer won 19–17, after a total of four hours and 26 minutes—the longest men’s singles match of all time in the open era.
An excellent bronze for the giant from Tandil gives the Albiceleste the fourth Olympic medal and the satisfaction of challenging even King Roger, again in 2012, first at the London Finals and then in a wonderful exhibition match in Buenos Aires!
Finally, there is another record final, this time set by Steffi Graf at Roland Garros in 1988.
The German, who will complete the Grand Slam for tennis predictions that year and will also triumph at the Seoul Olympics (against the Argentine, Sabatini, who will be her doubles partner Graf in Paris), smashes Russia’s Natasha Zvereva with a double 6-0 in just 34 minutes, including a brief rain interruption!