Djokovic believes that reducing the time in games will benefit tennis players and spectators

LONDON-. From time to time the debate arises as to whether five-set matches should continue to be played at Wimbledon and the other three Grand Slams. Consider Novak Djokovic as a defender of this format—at least in the later rounds.

But he wouldn’t mind taking it to three sets in the early stages.

The first three rounds saw 34 matches go to five sets at the All England Club, the most at this point in any Slam in the open era, which began in 1968.

“Nowadays you only see them in Grand Slams, right? I think that’s what excites the players and the fans,” said Djokovic, who has won seven of his 24 major titles at Wimbledon.

The appeal lies in the drama associated with comebacks, as well as the back-and-forths.

But perhaps Djokovic is biased, as he has a 40-11 record in five sets.

“I have enjoyed them throughout my career,” he said. “They are an important aspect of history and the future, as well as of sport.”

But the 37-year-old Serb, who has spent the most weeks at No 1, conceded there are arguments for ditching the five-set format in an era of limited attention spans. As Djokovic puts it, to “attract the younger audience.”

“Five-set matches that last four, five, six hours are not ideal for athletes, but neither are they ideal for spectators,” he said. “The only thing I think could be considered is three-set matches in the first rounds and then changing to a five-set format from the fourth round or quarter-finals onwards.”

The All England Club has hosted some of the longest matches in tennis, including the longest: John Isner’s 11-hour, 5-minute victory over Nicolas Mahut in the 2010 first round that spanned three years and ended in a 70-68 fifth set.

That, and Isner’s 26-24 loss to Kevin Anderson in the 2018 semifinals, led to a limit of 1-10 in third sets for women and fifth sets for men being imposed at all Grand Slams.

Previously, Wimbledon attempted a limit of 12 and that is how Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the 2019 final.

“One of the most exciting matches I have ever played,” Djokovic said.

But the wear and tear of playing five sets leaves tennis players trying to avoid that fifth set and conserve energy for later.

Ben Shelton, 21, has needed to win five five-set matches and lost in the fourth round on Sunday to Jannik Sinner.

This year’s Australian Open featured 35 five-set matches, tying the record set by the 1983 US Open. Why are there so many?

“There are a lot of good players at the moment. There is no easy draw – maybe if you play a clay expert on grass. But actually everyone plays well on all surfaces and the level is very high,” said Denis Shapovalov, who lost to Shelton on Saturday.