Have you heard of this “Coman” tiebreak? Not the Conan tiebreak (check out the photo). Not the Coleman tiebreak. It's the “Coman” tiebreak.
Although the Coman tiebreak has been around since the 1980's, it was not until the early 2000's that it was adopted by the USTA for national league play, leading to its widespread acceptance.
So what's the difference between a Coman tiebreak and the standard tiebreak procedure?
As you know, a tiebreak is used when the score in a set reaches 6-6. It is one game that determines the winner of the set. So when the tiebreak is over, the winner will have won the set 7-6. Since it is a game that is part of the set, service rotation does not change.
To start a standard tiebreak, the player whose turn it is to serve begins by serving one point from the deuce court. Serve then passes to the opposing player or team who serves two points, the first from the ad court and the second from the deuce court. The serve then alternates between players or teams, with each serving two serves, first from the ad court and then from the deuce court. Players or teams switch sides between the 6th and 7th points and then every 6 points after that. The winner is the first team to reach at least 7 points AND be ahead in the tiebreak score by 2 points (so 7-6 is not a winning tiebreak score but 8-6 is). Note that a “super” tiebreak is sometimes used in lieu of playing a 3rd set where the tiebreak score may be first to 10 points.
So what about the Coman tiebreak? The Coman tiebreak is JUST LIKE the standard tiebreak except that players switch ends after the first point and then after every four points.
Why this change?
1. In a standard tiebreak, during a doubles match, players will end up serving from both sides of the court, rather than from “their side.” The Coman tiebreak ensures that doubles players will always serve from their side and thus helps provide some consistency within the set. In other words, the tiebreak serving conditions are consistent with the set serving conditions.
2. The Coman tiebreak also results in more frequent changes in sides, meaning that the effects of the court conditions (sun, wind, overhead lights, etc.) are more fairly experienced by both players or teams.
Now you're ready for any tiebreak that comes your way. Just remember – it's Coman. We're not talking about an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie here!
Not sure what to do after the tiebreak? Check out this Tennis Fixation post for the answers: After The Tiebreaker, Who Serves?