Epic fifth sets 'should be a thing of the past'

Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic sat through the full five hours and two minutes of Novak Djokovic's epic victory against Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday night, but believes the most memorable match of a relatively uneventful Australian Open should have finished considerably earlier. That is, with a tie-breaker.

Only the US Open - and only since 1970 - of the four grand slams plays tie-breakers in each set of both singles events, rather than extending after 6-6 until there is a margin of two games in the decider. But as tennis becomes more physically demanding, and the average age of men, in particular, among the top 100, is far higher than during Ivanisevic's 1980s heyday, the Croatian says the length of matches is partly to blame.

''It's tougher,'' said Ivanisevic, 41, who is partnering Cedric Pioline in the Legends doubles. ''Tougher because first of all [there are] a lot of tournaments. Second, you can have every match [lasting] a couple of hours, and I think they have to change the rules.

''I think they should have every grand slam tie-breaker in the fifth set, like US Open, because you can shorten the match like [Sunday] night for at least one hour, and is big difference. Four hours or five hours is huge difference. So tie-breaker in the fifth set. I know it's like roulette, but still it's great for the spectator, it's exciting and it's fun.''

Ivanisevic nominated the record-obliterating Wimbledon marathon of 2010 in which John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set as the most extreme example of the impossible task of backing up for the next round. ''How do you expect these guys to play? Not even in one month they cannot play, they cannot recover, so with a tie-breaker you avoid that, you avoid [those] ridiculous long matches.''

He agrees with the majority who believe the Melbourne Park courts are playing faster this year - so fast, indeed, that Ivanisevic claims they are slicker than the famously-slowed Wimbledon grass - and could therefore help four-time champion Roger Federer's quest for a record-equalling fifth Australian title. Still, he is tipping third seed Andy Murray.

''Murray is going to win in my opinion, because the Olympic Games and the US Open help him a lot,'' he said.

''Now finally he won a grand slam and he is not feeling pressure like before. He knows he can beat 'em all. He knows that he can win more grand slams … and Ivan [Lendl] helped him a lot mentally, and [to] change his game and be more aggressive.''

Novak Djokovic. Picture: REUTERS

Novak Djokovic. Picture: REUTERS


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