PLANTATION, FL, USA: When qualifying for the first US based men’s ITF Pro Circuit tournament got underway on 4 January, few could have predicted what was to come.
After two rounds of action, long time Davis Cup teammates for Monaco, Benjamin Balleret and Guillaume Couillard were brought together in a third round clash. Both players progress to the third round had, bar a first set defeat for Couillard in round two, been pretty straight forward but that was about to change!
Balleret, who at 29 was eight years Couillard’s junior, had won the only previous meeting between the two back in early April 2004 and as the eighth seed here was expected to win again against his unranked opponent.
That last meeting finished 75 75 to Balleret in a match which like this was on a clay court and their first set was to also prove to be a closely fought set and at six-all the set went into a tiebreak, and here’s where the fun really began!
When the tiebreak score reached six points each another 58 points were played out before a winner of the set could be determined. Throughout the duration of this incredible record-breaking 70-point tiebreak, both players held multiple set points.
Following on from this exhausting and mentally taxing tiebreak the second set was quickly finished off by Balleret with the loss of just one game.
When the ITF Pro Circuit contacted David Littlefield, the ITF Tournament Supervisor, he said: "I have been officiating since 1983 and never in my wildest dreams would I think that there would ever be a 70-point tiebreak, much less have it occur in a tournament where I am the ITF Supervisor for the event."
Speaking of that tiebreak, Balleret informed the ITF: "It was an incredible tiebreak, it lasted around 35 minutes I would say and the match maybe 1 hour 45, the second set was very quick.
"We know each other very well so we were both very tight and Guillaume was cramping in his hand, I guess it was around 25-25! I think we both realised only after the match that it was a record."
Estimates on the durations had to be made as ITF Tournament Supervisor, David Littlefield, told us: "Unfortunately the match played was in the qualifying and all matches in qualifying are played without any chair umpire or any lines people. The players call their own lines and the matches have a few 'roving' certified officials that watch several courts at once and may be called on from time to time to settle any disputes between the players.
"There is no 'official' record of the match, such as a scorecard, no total time of the set, nor any way to know the number of set points any of the players had in the course of the tiebreak. The tiebreak was witnessed by spectators, and the players are 'veteran' ATP Tour players who would not just make up a score for the hell of it."
Prior to this, the ITF’s longest recorded score for a men’s tiebreak stood at 22-20 and took place on the ITF Pro Circuit in San Salvador, ESA in a January 2005 second round main draw match between Ricardo Hocevar and Phillip King with Hocevar winning 57 76(7) 76(20).
Following on from his victory over Couillard, Balleret was able to recover rather quickly and in the next round wrapped up qualification for the main draw with a quick-fire 61 60 victory.
Results from this tournament can be viewed online here and will be updated on a daily basis following close of play each day.
If you want to share your thoughts on this amazing tiebreak with fellow tennis fans then you can do so on our official Facebook and Twitter sites, we’d be particularly interested to hear from anyone who personally witnessed this record-breaking tiebreak!