Why Are Women’s Tennis Matches Only 3 Sets? (All You Need To Know)

Why Are Women’s Tennis Matches Only 3 Sets

For fans, nothing beats the satisfying experience of sitting down and watching your favorite players exert themselves physically on the court. But in case you have closely followed this sport, you may notice something slightly off. 

Most male tournaments employ a best-of-five set format, while their female counterparts are expected to follow a best-of-three set format.

So, why are women’s tennis matches only 3 sets? What is the history behind this tradition? Keep reading if you are curious about this issue!



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Why Are Women’s Tennis Matches Only 3 Sets?


Most experts agree that the 3-set applied for female matches is due to deeply rooted sexism. When tennis was first introduced as a popular sport, it was widely believed that women’s strength and stamina were much lower than that of men.

As a result, tennis organizers decided to reduce the number of sets expected of women is an attempt to ensure that females could participate without wearing themselves out.

Since tradition runs deep, today, we still see female tennis players having 3-set matches, as opposed to 5-set matches required from male players.

Is It Possible To Change Women’s Tennis 3-Set Matches?

Despite the outdated assumption that women are more fragile than men, it is highly unlikely for us to change how female tournaments are organized. Below are some of the reasons why.

  • Longer matches are less economical: To arrange 5-set matches, the hosts would have to reach out to players, ensure they are available for more time on the court, and make sure different matches do not overlap each other.

Not only are these tasks time-consuming, but they also end up being more costly. Since profitability is the end goal of tournament directors, there is no way they would double down on the initial investment if it can be avoided.

  • Longer matches are harder to sell: Getting broadcast on popular televised networks is an important flow of income. Nevertheless, sports channels prefer airing short matches so that they can diversify their programs.

If the matches take more time than they should, fewer channels would be interested. Hence, women’s games are more prone to being ignored due to their low level of marketability.


  • Longer matches are not favored by fans: This is not an issue tied solely to women’s matches, but also to men’s matches as well. There have been reports that the audience enjoys watching shorter games when players are still at their peak and capable of delivering powerful blows. 

The longer the matches are, the slower and less impressive players become. Furthermore, not many people are willing to spend too much time for 5 sets while 3 sets are enough to determine the winner.

  • Longer matches are not suitable for players: Playing professionally is not a piece of cake. However well trained the athletes are, engaging in a vigorous game can drain the energy away and directly affect the quality of the play in the long run.

Being forced to play 5-set matches leave players little time to recover and a higher percentage of being injured.

  • Longer matches are not advocated enough: Certain players and public figures have voiced their concerns over the sexist notion associated with women’s matches.

But no actual effort has been made regarding the issue. Most people just pay lip service instead of hosting campaigns or rallying for changes. Without a proper action plan, it is virtually impossible to reverse the status quo.


1. Do women’s tennis play 5 sets?

The majority of tournaments only use the best-of-three set format, when both men and women are expected to play 3 sets only. In some cases, women do play 5 sets, but it is not the norm.

When you enter professional, advanced tournaments like the US Open, the French Open, or the Grand Slams, tradition has it that only men have to play 5 sets.

2. How long do tennis matches last?

Usually, 3-set games can last up to an hour and a half. For 5-set games, it can be nearly 3 hours straight. 

3. Do female tennis players get paid the same as their male colleagues?

All of the Grand Slam tournaments do not discriminate in their prize, and winners will enjoy the same amount of cash regardless of their gender. But at smaller-scale tournaments, there has been no concrete evidence of whether the pay gap is resolved.

4. Who is the best female tennis player right now?


Rankings from WTA Tennis point out that Ashleigh Barty currently has the most points at 7582.

5. Who is the most well-known female tennis player of all time?

Though not officially recognized, most people would agree that Serena Williams deserves the title.

Ever since she graced the court from the late 1990s, Serene Williams has repeatedly affirmed her strength and expertise in the game, collecting prestigious prizes and remaining active for years. 


The question “Why are women’s tennis matches only 3 sets” can be traced back to its misogynistic history. But nowadays, females playing 3 sets have become the norm due to practical reasons. Subsequently, chances are we will continue to see 3-set matches in female tournaments.

Further Reading

Why women and men should play an equal number of sets in tennis majors

Wimbledon 2017: Is it sexist women only play three sets

Why Women Don’t Play Best-Of-Five Matches At Grand Slams

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Dixon John

Tennis blogger - amateur

My dad taught me to play when I was just 14-15 years old and for the last 7 years, I’ve practiced it with all my passion…

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