Tennis 101: Competition format

Posted at 5:15 PM, Mar 08, 2021


Olympic tennis is not like the Davis Cup or Fed Cup, annual competitions pitting nation against nation in a team-style format involving individual matches. The Tokyo Games will be similar to a Grand Slam event, with fewer players. The five tennis competitions on the Olympic program are:

o    Men's singles
o    Women's singles
o    Men's doubles
o    Women's doubles
o    Mixed doubles

Tournament draws

In Tokyo, the tennis competition involves single-elimination tournaments for each of the five events. The men's and women's singles draws both feature 64 competitors; the men's and women's doubles draws have 32 teams.

Sixteen players are seeded in singles and eight teams are seeded in doubles with the remaining players or teams drawn into brackets. Where practical, no two players from the same country are placed in the same quarter of the draw. Seedings are based on the latest international rankings.


Adhering to the typical protocol of tennis tournaments, players advance through the draw by winning matches. Losers are eliminated until the field is down to four players/teams. At this stage, the semifinal winners advance to meet in the Gold Medal Final; the semifinal losers face each other to determine who wins bronze.

Match format

All tennis matches at the Tokyo Olympics will be best-of-three sets, except for the men's singles, which will be best-of-five. All men's matches used to be best-of-five until the format was changed after the Barcelona Games to encourage more participation, with the tournament generally being played on the eve of the U.S. Open.


In all matches, tie-breaks are used for any set that reaches 6-all except the last, which will be played until one player (or team) has a two-game advantage. This is the format followed at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon; at the U.S. Open, tie-breaks are used in every set.

Court dimensions

A tennis court measures 78 feet in length and either 27 feet (for singles) or 36 feet (for doubles) in width; each doubles alley, running the length of the court, is 4 feet, 6 inches wide. The court is divided into two equal sides by a net standing three feet high at the center of the court. On each half, a center line extends perpendicular to the net until connecting to the service line, which runs parallel to -- and 21 feet from -- the net.


In Tokyo, the court surface is hardcourt.