Thirty30 Tennis What You Need to Know

Image courtesy of Mark Milne

Professional tennis is sports entertainment in 2018 and the sport’s governing bodies are not afraid to tinker with the rules to give us what they believe is a more exciting version of the game that will capture new fans. One idea put forward to the ITF that might play a role one day is Mark Milne’s Thirty30 tennis. Mark tells us about Thirty30 in the article below- read it and tell us what you think in the comments.

What is Thirty30 tennis?

Thirty30 tennis is the new and complementary scoring method that creates shorter, more exciting matches, and brings tennis into the 21st century.

Thirty30 tennis has been created to give both recreational and professional tennis players an alternative to the traditional scoring method and is to be used where appropriate.

In the same way Twenty20 (T20) cricket has revolutionised how cricket is played, Thirty30 (T30) tennis is a speedier form of the traditional game and can reinvigorate competition and grow tennis in the future.

There is an appetite within tennis for shorter format matches. Shorter format matches have been trialed recently at the ATP Next Gen finals in Milan and there have also been a series of Tie Break Tens “one-night winner-takes-all” exhibition events held over the last two years. Tennis Australia’s FAST4 format is also increasingly being used worldwide.

One set of Thirty30 tennis takes no longer than a ‘bite-size’ 20 minutes, a best-of-three sets match can be completed within an hour and best-of-5 sets matches don’t generally last any longer than 90 minutes.

What are the rules?

Everything is identical to the traditional scoring except:

(1) EVERY game played starts at “30-all” (30-30) and the score of “Thirty30” is called out at the start of every game.

(2) If a set reaches 6 games all, a ‘9-point tie-break’, i.e. first to 5 points, sudden death at 4-4, is played to decide the winner of the set by 7-6.

Order of serve is: A  B B A / change ends  / A B B A A (9 points maximum)

(3) During a set, players serve alternative games and change ends initially after 2 games, then after every 4 games and at the end of each set, i.e. after 2, 6 and 10 games.

There is no ‘deciding game’ played at 6 games all in the final set; the final set is won by leading by 2 clear games as per traditional scoring.

The “No Ad” rule is NOT used, i.e. ‘normal deuce’ is played as per traditional scoring.

The “No Let” rule is NOT used, i.e. as per traditional tennis.

How did the idea come about?

Thirty30 (30-all) starts are nothing new. Coaches have used Thirty30 starts for many years to give players experience of playing more “big points”, as warm-up drills, etc., but what is new is that we have taken it, tidied it up and ‘packaged’ it as a match format and branded it as “Thirty30” (“T30”) tennis in a similar way to cricket’s Twenty20 (T20).

In order to make their sports more exciting to both compete in and be a spectator at, numerous sports over recent years have experimented with their scoring systems. Squash, badminton, table tennis, cricket, darts, golf, netball, basketball, are to name but a few. All have had the same aim – to make their sport faster, more intense and more exciting. Cricket, being particularly successful with their introduction of the Twenty20 format, is currently being assessed to be selected as a sport to be included in the 2024 Olympic Games. This would have been unthinkable before the introduction of Twenty20.

Tennis is no different. It too has acknowledged that things have to change in order to maintain the interest in tennis at a high level and also to introduce a new younger generation to the sport. Standing still is not an option. Today’s generation are looking for something that is quicker and more exciting to both play and be a spectator at.

2018 ITF Rules of Tennis

Within the 2018 International Tennis Federation (ITF) Rules of Tennis – Appendix V – Alternative Procedures and Scoring Methods, there are 2 main alternative “shorter” formats listed:

1) Match Tie-Break (10 points) (Tie Break Tens (brand name))

A tie-break to 10 points is played, lead by 2 points.

This is used in the ATP doubles competitions as a 3rd set decider to decide a match when a best of 3 sets match is tied at 1 set all, thus shortening a match.

The Match Tie-Break has recently been marketed as ‘Tie Break Tens’ (TBT) where shortened matches of one tie-break to 10 points have been played.

TBT matches are over very quickly and do not give players much time to settle into a match. Get off to a bad start and the match is lost, i.e. they can be a ten-point lottery.

2) FAST4 (brand name)

This alternative format has been piloted by Tennis Australia over recent years and there has been a wide uptake of the FAST4 format in competitive tennis over recent years.

There are basically 4 changes to the traditional rules – sets are played to 4 games, a 9-point tie-break to 5 points is played at 3 games all, there are no advantage points played after deuce (i.e. sudden death deuce) and there are no service let’s played.

The FAST4 format was trialed at the 2017 Next Gen (under 21) ATP finals held in Milan in November and the ATP are currently producing a report on their findings during the tournament.

The FAST4 format produces truncated traditional matches. With no advantage points played and winning a set with only 4 games, FAST4 produces shorter matches but are far detracted from traditional matches. With no advantage points played there are even less “big points” played. One break of serve and the set can be lost.

The Thirty30 (T30) scoring method has been created as an additional alternative to the existing Match Tie-Break (10 points) (or Champion’s Tie-Break) and FAST4 (sets to 4 games, etc.) shorter formats.

The “Thirty30” brand name is easily recognizable as being identifiable with tennis and along with its very basic explanation of its rules “every game starts at “thirty30” (30-30), it becomes synonymous with the sport of tennis.

Thirty30 is the tennis equivalent of cricket’s extremely successful Twenty20 and can be instantly recognizable as the faster more intense and more exciting format of tennis.

The Thirty30 scoring method, with its change of ends after the first two games played, followed by every four games played during a set, halves the number of change of ends during a match, thus also reducing the overall duration, i.e. changing ends after 2, 6 and 10 games, ensures a maximum of 3 change of ends per set.

What are the advantages of  Thirty30?

  • produces faster, more “bite-size” intense periods of play, ideal for television.
  • retains the “no-tie-break / leading by 2 games” to win the final set unlike FAST4.
  • produces tennis matches that FEEL, LOOK and SOUND like traditional tennis matches, but are shorter in duration, are more exciting and intense – every second point played is a game point.
  • the transition from the traditional scoring method to the Thirty30 scoring method and back again is seamless for players, audiences and officials. The rules are extremely similar and very simple.
  • retains the advantage points after deuce thus maintaining the opportunity of producing the multi-deuce games that are long recognised as being part of the game of tennis, sadly missed using the FAST4 method.
  • a match can be won for example by 7-6, 2-6, 8-6, i.e. the match score looks identical to that produced using the traditional scoring method, unlike FAST4 (e.g. 4-1, 2-4, 4-3) or TBT (e.g. 10-6).
  • produces more unpredictable sets. It is easier to break serve – the receiver has to win only one out of the first two points played to take a game to deuce instead of three when using the traditional scoring.
  • full focus and concentration is required 100% of the time. There is no opportunity to switch off.
  • starting each game at “thirty30” (30-all) creates a set of tennis where the dynamics are changed – the sets’ game score ticks along more rapidly. There are more “big points” – every second point played is a game point – and there are less meaningless points and less dead periods during a match. End-of-set’s dramas are reached more quickly (and more often when playing best of 5 sets).
  • matches build in a similar fashion to traditional tennis.
  • can be used as a “3rd set match-decider”; a Thirty30 final set (lead by 2 games) provides a far better and fairer alternative to the currently used Match Tie-Break (10 points).
  • Thirty30 and FAST4 both produce shorter matches but Thirty30 retains the traditions of tennis far better.
  • more Thirty30 matches can be played in the same time, e.g. a “Session” will have more matches and spectators will see more players compete.
  • ideal for round-robin events, e.g. players will play matches against more opponents in the same time.
  • ideal for exhibition events.
  • maintains the traditions of tennis which is key to success in the future. Retaining “sets to 6 games” and playing “Ad-points” are critical to that success.
  • can be used when tournaments or events have suffered from rain delays and matches are required to be shortened in order to complete the event.
  • The Ultimate Tennis Rating (UTR) algorithm calculation is seamless using Thirty30.
  • Ladies can play best of 5 set tennis matches as well as the men.
  • A Thirty30 “Grand Slam” Tournament / Event playing best-of-5 set matches (maximum match length of 90 minutes) can be played.

Thirty30 Tennis – Trialing

Thirty30 is better than Tennis Australia’s FAST4 format and is also fairer than the Match Tie-Break (10 points) and Thirty30 are planning to prove this by trialing it all over the world.

Through successful trialing, Thirty30 are building a case to apply to the ITF to have this complementary scoring method “Thirty30” officially included in Appendix V (Alternative Scoring Methods) of the ITF Rules of Tennis.

Thirty30 tennis:

  • can be trialed during events by playing either singles or doubles.
  • is suitable for all ages (juniors, adults, seniors) and all levels of tennis.
  • is very simple, and the transition from playing traditional tennis to Thirty30 tennis and back again is seamless.

Thirty30 are looking for people to trial the Thirty30 scoring method.

If you are interested please see:

Thirty30 Tennis – Testimonials

Thirty30 was rolled out for trialling at the end of 2017 and the latest very encouraging testimonials are listed at:

Testimonial #91 (March 1st 2018) by Jim Baugh, President – Wilson Sporting Goods (1997-2003), President – Tennis Industry Association (2004-2006), Founder – PHIT America (2013-present), Jupiter, Florida, USA:

Every traditional sport needs to change and look for new ways to make the game more appealing to today’s players or potential players. Thirty30 looks like a system which will appeal to players and offers shorter and more intense matches. Alternative forms of tennis are needed for sure and Mark’s system seems to be a winner.

Thirty30 Tennis – Summary

Thirty30 tennis – FEELS, LOOKS and SOUNDS like traditional tennis!

Thirty30 tennis – EVERY Point REALLY Counts!

Thirty30 tennis – VERY marketable!

Thirty30 tennis – Have You Tried It Yet?



Mark J. Milne (Tennis Player and Enthusiast, Creator of Thirty30 tennis)

Arbroath, Scotland, March 2018

Thirty30 tennis is a member of the Tennis Industry Association (TIA UK) – 2018

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