How to Set up a Round Robin in Tennis

How to Set up a Round Robin in Tennis

A Guide to Setting Up a Round-Robin Tennis Tournament

Most tennis tournaments use single-elimination brackets, but if you and a group of tennis-playing friends want to set up a tournament that guarantees several matches per player, a round-robin format is the way to go. By using this format, players aren’t eliminated if they lose a match since they will play every other player at least once. In this article, we'll guide you through the process of setting up a round-robin tennis tournament and explain the pros and cons of using this format.

Basic Round-Robin Format

The most basic format for a round robin is to set up a schedule where each player plays against every other player once in a single round. The player with the most wins over other players wins the tournament.

A round robin can work with as few as three players. For example, if Allison, Brittney, and Caroline are playing in a round-robin tournament, Allison will play Brittney, Brittney will play Caroline, and Caroline will play Allison.

If Allison beats Brittney and Caroline, her win-loss record will be 2-0. If Brittney beats Caroline, her win-loss record will be 1-1. Since Caroline lost both of her matches, her win-loss record will be 0-2. That means Allison is the winner of the round-robin tournament.

However, with only three players, it is possible to end up with a tie. If Allison beats Brittney but loses to Caroline, and Brittney beats Caroline, each player will have a win-loss record of 1-1. If that occurs, according to USTA rules, the top two players play a deciding match. To determine the top two players, look at the scores of the individual matches and total the number of games won within each match. Using the same example, if Allison beat Brittney with a score of 6-4, 6-3, Brittney beats Caroline with a score of 6-3, 6-1, and Caroline beats Allison with a score of 6-4, 7-5, then Allison won 21 games, Brittney won 19 games, and Caroline won 17 games. Allison and Brittney would play a deciding match to determine the winner of the tournament.

Pros of Round-Robin Tournaments

The biggest advantage of a round-robin tournament is that players get to play multiple matches and aren’t eliminated when they lose. This creates a fair and inclusive playing field since players test their skills against every other player, and the luck of the draw isn’t a factor that would knock weaker players out in the early rounds of the tournament.


tennis round robin
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Cons of Round-Robin Tournaments

The biggest disadvantage of a round-robin tournament is the amount of time it takes for players to play against every other player. In a single-elimination tournament with 16 players, it would take 15 matches to determine the winner. In a round-robin tournament with 16 players, it would take 120 matches for each player to play against every other player once. 

For a tournament coordinator, scheduling a round-robin tournament can be far more  complicated than a single-elimination tournament because of the number of matches involved. There also isn’t a final match that gives fans an exciting finish to the tournament.

tennis rules
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Large Round-Robin Format

Given the pros and cons of a round-robin tournament, if more than five players are involved, it would be faster to blend the tournament format by dividing the players into groups. Depending on the number of players involved, they could be divided into two or four groups. The first part of the tournament would be a round robin with each player playing the other players in the group. Then the top players from each group would play each other in a single-elimination bracket. This format is used by other sports as well, such as the FIFA World Cup. 

tennis round robin tournament
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Setting Up a Round Robin

To set up a round-robin tournament, start by choosing a date and registering participants. Once the number of participants has been determined, set up a match schedule. This can be done by hand on a grid, or you can even find online round robin generators. (Here are two: 

Tournament Scheduler 
Round Robin Generator

If you are creating the schedule by hand, make sure to list the names randomly or in alphabetical order and not by skill level. This ensures that weaker players are not going to play a string of stronger players. 

When hosting a round-robin tournament, the more courts you have, the faster the tournament will go. Assign the courts used for the first round of matches, but the subsequent court assignments should be made as matches finish since matches will finish at different rates. 

Make sure that participants are aware of the tournament rules and scoring system. Will you use best-of-three matches, ad or no ad, etc.? After each match is played, record the match score and keep track of each player’s win-loss record. 

At the end of the tournament, recognize the winners or top performers with trophies or other awards. Some possible categories to recognize include the winner, runner-up, most improved player, and best sportsmanship. Leave participants with a positive experience so they want to participate in future tournaments.

tennis tournament styles
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Organizing a round-robin tennis tournament can be an exciting experience for everyone involved. By following these steps, you can create an inclusive and enjoyable event that allows players to showcase their skills, build connections, and foster a love for tennis. Clear communication, fair scheduling, and proper organization are the keys to hosting a successful round-robin tournament that will be remembered for years to come.

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