In the ATP & WTA events, both Men & Women tennis players play best of 3 sets. But when it comes to Grand Slams, the Men play 5 sets.
At the risk of sounding a misogynist, I always believe the reason to be strength & endurance. After all, a 5 set EPIC match lasts 5 hours while a 3 set EPIC last 3 hours.

Is that the only reason. Or am I a naive misogynist?
Also was that the case since the history of Grand Slams or did Men play 3 sets before?

  • 2
    Yes.. Usually men has more stamina than women.. Commented May 21, 2014 at 10:20
  • I believe that women should play best of 5 from at least the round of 16 on for several reasons. 1. They are professional athletes and should be able to go 5 sets. 2. The game is very psychological and it would give a good player time to regroup if she got off to a slow or bad start, and play her best tennis...especially if she is overwhelmed by all the media and the nerves that causes and it would give her time to work it out. 3. As a spectator I would like to see a great match continue! 4. My wife works as hard as her male peers and gets paid less ... Why the reverse in tennis?. Although one
    – user4977
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 1:39
  • @SalmanZaidi That is pretty false. In pretty much all endurance sports women compete at the same distances as men.
    – hmmmm
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 10:46
  • 1
    Men and women should play equal number of sets as they get equal prize-money. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 13:54

2 Answers 2


In addition to diggers3's answer, I would add:

  • Grand Slam (major) events are not ATP or WTA events - they are ITF events and are not subject to the ATP's or WTA's rules. All non-major tournaments for both men and women are now best of 3 sets matches.

  • Generally in tennis, when more is on the line (think $$) then best of 5 sets are played instead of best of 3. It is a more comprehensive test and ensures that one player (or doubles team) can outperform the other and not that one player was just "hot" or "cold" for a set or two.

  • Other men's tournaments used to play best of 5 sets also - Masters Series tournaments and the season-end Masters Cup (now World Tour Finals) used to play the best of 5 sets format also but changed to best of 3 in recent years.

  • Tennis, as sports go, tends to be very entrenched in tradition and doing something like changing men's grand slam matches from best of 5 sets to best of 3 would take a lot of convincing of those in authority to make that change. In recent years, many tennis journalists and media figures have suggested that the grand slam events have the men play best of 3 sets up until the second week (or QuarterFinals) - then switch to best of 5 beyond that.

  • As far as having the women play best of 5 sets like the men - I do not think that would be a good idea and would only contribute further to player injury and fatigue. I think you would end up seeing more retirements and walkover results than you do now. If anything, I think the men should switch to best of 3 before women change to best of 5.


Men have played 5 set matches and women 3. However from 1984-1998 women did play 5 set matches to conclude the year.

Men and women just recently have been paid the same for their matches in tournaments. This has led to men including Andy Murray to suggest women play the same length of match as the men if they are getting paid equally.

As far as strength and endurance are concerned, I believe it is pretty relative. Women compete in strength and endurance competitions just like men. The overall time, weight, scores, etc. may be lower for women, but it is relative. Women would wear down in long, tough matches just as men do.

By the way, Martina Navratilova thinks that men should play 3 instead of 5.

  • Seems like your first link is linking to something not relevant to what you are saying.
    – user0820
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 23:27
  • @user0810 just referencing that women have played 5 set matches in the past.
    – diggers3
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 20:00
  • Your first link seems to be linking to the story that Soldier Adopts Hero Dog Shot 4 Times Point Blank Saving His Life.
    – Martin
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 10:33
  • Even though it's relative (in the sense that both women would degrade similarly), it may not be completely irrelevant that men may have more stamina. Just like a reliever with a 99mph fastball would suffer when pitching as a starter in many cases, the play might suffer in a longer match, because 'tired' matches would be more random, have a lot more errors, and overall just be less interesting. You might be more likely for the more technically skilled player to lose - or to win. There are many reasons to consider different lengths of matches.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:36

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