Achieving a long or even the longest rally in tennis is an uphill battle. Usually, these rallies will last for a few shots back and forth, with one player coming out victorious. However, what happens when a rally turns into a full-out, multi-hour battle? How long have these gotten?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest tennis rally consisted of 51,283 strokes, achieved by amateur players Simone Frediani and Daniele Pecci during a game in June 2017. However, one of the longest recorded rallies during a professional match goes to players Vicki Nelson-Dunbar and Jean Hepner in a 29-minute, 643-shot rally.
Are you curious to see who else achieved super-long rally status? Keep reading to find out!
What Is A Rally In Tennis?
When you hear the term ‘rally’ in tennis, this is a sequence of back-and-forth shots between players within a point. You are hitting the ball back and forth without one player scoring. These only last 4-5 shots most times; however, there are instances when these can run far longer.
The Longest Recorded Tennis Rallies In History
Over the years, there have been many events where tennis players achieved history-making rallies. From ATP and WTA tournaments to Grand Slam events, there are some pretty impressive timelines to cover.
Frediani vs Pecci: Grosseto Italy (2017)
Sitting as the longest-recorded tennis match according to Guinness, Italian amateur players Simone Frediani and Daniele Pecci achieved a groundbreaking 51,283-shot rally in 2017. Of course, this was done to break the record and was not during a professional match, but it is impressive.
The two players still hold this record, nearly seven years later, and have had no other set of amateurs or professionals come close to the rally totals.
Sampras vs Agassi: US Open (1997)
Another highly talked about rally that broke records was between rivals Pete Sampras and Sam Agassi during the US Open in 1997. The two hit 51 shots during the rally before Agassi won the tournament. As mentioned, there aren’t generally long, drawn-out rallies during a professional tennis match.
This was one of the few that went on for so many shots, still being discussed today.
Nelson vs. Hepner: Virginia Slims Tournament (1984)
The next longest rally recorded professionally goes to Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner. During this rally, the two players hit 643 shots in 29 minutes: shattering previous records. This was a part of their hour and 47-minute tie break and occurred on the same day as the 6:31-minute match.
The two players were awarded this prestigious title of the longest professional match and have since held it to this day.
Borg vs. Vilas – French Open (1978)
Next, we have one of the most impressive clay rallies, between players Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas in the 1978 French Open. This rally lasted roughly 86 strokes, causing Vilas to get worn out and lose the match.
Many people consider this one of the more heated exchanges during an Open because of how long and grueling this was for both players.
Djokovic vs. Nadal: US Open (2013)
Another exciting (and lengthy) rally was between tennis icons Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal during the US Open 2013. This was another rally the two were involved in, as both professional players are known for their extensive rallying abilities. Stat-wise, the rally ended with 55 shots.
The two have played a total of 59 times against each other, so it’s no surprise the rally was able to last for so long.
Simon vs. Monfils: Australian Open (2013)
Moving to the Australian Open in 2013, players Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon were involved in a record-shattering rally, lasting 71 shots. This rally was significant because it came at the point in their match when the score was 4-4 in the second set.
Additionally, the French duo had another impressive performance before this, in 2011 at the Hamburg Open: so they’re not strangers to rallying.
Mahut vs. Granollers: Davis Cup (2018)
The last longest rally we’ll mention is between French player Nicolas Mahut and Spanish player Marcel Granollers. Their rally lasted 84 shots, with Granollers eventually winning the match 13-11 in a decisive final set tiebreak.
Notably, this rally came at just the match’s second point and was fun for those in the crowd watching. Most of their shots were backhand slices, making this more of a showy rally.
Which Players Are Known For Having Long Rallies?
When it comes to players who can’t seem to avoid long rallies, these include some of the greats. Notably, tennis players known for longer rallying are:
- Rafael Nadal
- Andy Murray
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Diego Schwartzman
- Kimiko Date Krumm
- Giles Simon
- Novak Djokovic
- Angelique Kerber
What all these tennis players have in common is that they’re incredibly fast, precise, and known to extend the matches they play.
Moreover, when players like these play against each other, that makes for super lengthy rallying. An example is Nadal and Djokovic’s 2013 US Open rally, totaling 55 shots.
Why Do Some Tennis Rallies Last So Long?
Regarding “why” some tennis rallies last so long, this could be due to a few environmental and skill-level attributes. First, clay courts are known to produce longer, more challenging rallies during matches.
Notably, the French Open occurs on a clay court, often leading to extended rallying between opponents. It’s also worth mentioning that in an interview with data analyst Craig O’Shannessy, who has worked with 21-time grand slam champion Djokovic, these three things impact rally times:
- Players who go deeper into a tournament
- Daily weather and temperature during a match
- Court/ball conditions (materials, age, etc.)
This was heavily discussed at the most recent Australian Open, with many viewers and players noticing the match and rally times were much longer than usual. This was in part because of the level of players making it to the Australian Open (and many of the Grand Slam tournaments).
The better a player, the longer a match, rally, etc. It’s also worth noting that matches, rallies, and play time tend to speed up as temperatures rise. Cooler days lead to longer playing time. If you’re curious about the duration of tennis matches, you can find detailed information about how long is a tennis match here.
Are Rallies Faster On Hard Tennis Courts?
In general, hard courts are considered faster courts versus a material like clay. People may find that playing on a hard court means shorter rally times when it comes to rallying.
That said, it’s not always 100% true that players will have a brief match or rally when on hard courts: but it certainly looks that way through data and years of observation.
One of the main issues with clay tennis courts is they require more energy to maneuver. As weather and conditions fluctuate, it’s possible to see a clay court get harder to play tennis on while hard courts stay more predictable. For more on different tennis court types and their advantages, check out this guide on all types of tennis courts.
How Many Shots Are In A Regular Rally?
Most often, you’ll find that rallies are short, lasting between 0-4 shots 70% of the time. Of course, that’s not to say long rallies never happen, but this is more reserved for professional players with advanced skill sets.
That goes for male and female players, so there isn’t an advantage based on sex. According to experts, rally lengths between 5-8 shots occur about 20% of the time, and the remaining nine and up rally lengths occur about 10%.
In this article, we covered some of the longest tennis rallies ever recorded and players who tend to be involved in them. From amateur players Simone Frediani and Daniele Pecci achieving Guinness Record status to the greats Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal having 55-shot rallies, this is something unique to witness on and off the court.