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No Advantage, No Point? The History of the No-Ad Scoring System

On his way to a career best quarter final appearance at Wimbledon last week, Holger Rune managed to stoke controversy when asked how he’d improve the game of tennis if he were in charge.

“No-Ad scoring at 40 all. To make it, like, more interesting for the fans I think. There’s more exciting points. Also it will shorten the matches, which is also better for the fans. Make it more, like, intense.”

But what is No-Ad scoring? And why is it such a prickly subject?

The Origins of No-Ad

The No Advantage scoring system, also known as sudden-death deuce, dates back to the early 1970s. It was first introduced in World Team Tennis (WTT), a professional league founded by Billie Jean King in 1974. The main objective was to shorten matches and create a more entertaining product for spectators. In no-ad scoring, when the game reaches deuce (40-40), the next point decides the game, eliminating prolonged deuce battles.

The adoption of no-ad scoring has extended beyond WTT, making its way into tournaments such as the next gen ATP Finals, the mixed doubles at the US Open and most notably the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships. College tennis embraced the format as a way to accelerate matches, accommodate tight schedules, and ensure fairness during team competitions. The NCAA’s decision to adopt no-ad has had a significant impact on the sport at the collegiate level.

What’s the advantage of no-advantage?

There are a few obvious benefits to the system.

Faster Matches

No-ad scoring eliminates prolonged deuce games, leading to faster-paced matches and appealing to modern audiences with shorter attention spans and busy schedules. ATP statistics for 2005 showed men’s doubles averaging 87.73 minutes per match; under the new rules in 2006, that fell to an average of 71.51 minutes.

Increased Drama

With the game on the line at deuce, every point becomes more crucial and intense, adding a sense of drama. It also increases the chances of service breaks making sets less predictable and adding to the excitement.

Competitive Balance

No-ad scoring levels the playing field, as it gives the underdog more opportunities to capitalise on a senior opponent’s mistakes.

No-ad, no party

But it’s not all upside. 

Critics have argued that no-ad scoring diminishes the strategic aspect of tennis, as players are more inclined to take risks rather than employing a patient approach.

Fans of the more physical side of the game have also been critical. Long deuce battles test a player’s endurance as well as their mental fortitude, which many argue are the essence of the sport.

Apart from anything else many players and fans are just resistant to change. Tennis has a rich and romantic history and drastic rule changes are seen as chipping away at the sport’s heritage.

Advantage In!

While the No-ad innovation has taken hold in college tennis where time is at a premium and scheduling can be difficult, it seems unlikely that the professional game is going to take Holger Rune’s advice anytime soon. 

Ironically, a week after he made his suggestion, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic went on to serve up the longest deuce battle in a Wimbledon final. It lasted 32 points and 26 minutes and had an already juiced up crowd on the edge of their seats.

No doubt the conversation will keep rearing its head and provoking debate but for now you can rest assured that those epic deuceathons aren’t going anywhere.

For a fuller explanation of how traditional tennis scoring works have a look at our guide. And if you’re new to the game and looking for a leg up our guide to the best tennis rackets for beginners is worth a look.

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