Round Robin In Tennis – How Does It Work?

A couple of months ago, I saw a tennis tournament advertised on a poster.

What caught my eye was something written at the bottom.

“The tournament will use a round robin format”

Call me naive, simple or just uninformed, but I’ve never fully understood what this means.

It’s obviously not a plump little red bird which you associate with Xmas cards!

robin bird

So I decided to do a little digging into what round robin means, and how it can be used in tennis.

What is Round Robin in Tennis?

Round robin tournaments are a popular format for tennis tournaments. It requires all players to compete against each other.

For example, if there are 12 players, each player competes 11 times.

In many ways, the round robin tournament offers the fairest way for a group of players to compete.

However, it also requires more matches compared to other styles of tournaments.

For professional tournaments, the players may be divided into groups of four. The top player from each group advances to the next round.

The format continues with each remaining player competing against the others.

In fact, there are many ways to set up a round robin tournament.

The format and the rules depend on the number of players and the type of competition.

You can use this type of tournament for all types of tennis competitions including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles competitions.

tennis round robin rules

Tennis Round Robin Rules

The rules for tennis round robin tournaments vary depending on the tournament and the number of players. However, the basic structure requires each player to play against every other player once.

The winner is typically the player with the most wins.

If the number of players exceeds 6, the tournament is often divided into rounds and players are divided into groups.

The main rule for a round robin tournament is that each player has the chance to play all other players. This is considered fairer compared to a knockout or elimination-style tournament.

round robin tennis format

Round Robin Tennis Format

The round robin format depends on the number of players.

With straight round robin tournaments, there are no rounds. Each player competes against the other players in turn.

If you have three to five players, the game can be played in a single round without separating players into groups. However, with more than five players, it is often faster to sort players into groups.

When the players are divided into groups, the tournament is played in rounds. Typically, the top one or two players from each group move on to the next round.

In some cases, one or more tiebreaker matches may be needed to determine a winner. With a round robin tournament, there is a risk that players will finish the round with an equal number of wins.

For example, if there are three players and player A defeats player B, player B defeats player C, and player C defeats player A, each player has one loss and one win. Tiebreakers may even require another round of round robin.

Tennis Round Robin Ideas for Creating a Tournament

The easiest method of determining playing schedule is to create a grid with the list of players.

The name of each player should be listed in the columns and rows in the same order. The first player competes against the second player, the third player competes against the fourth player, and so on.

If there is an odd number of players, you can add a dummy player to the round robin. The dummy player makes it easier to determine the format and stick to the basic round robin structure.

However, this is not necessary for three-player or five-player tournaments that are played in a single round.

Besides determining the playing schedule, you also need to determine the playing order. It is possible for a weaker player to end up with a series of tough matches at the beginning or end of his or her schedule instead of intermittently throughout the tournament.

You may either draw the names randomly and list them on the schedule in the order drawn or list the names alphabetically. This may slightly reduce the risk of a weaker player facing a series of tougher challenges.

What Are the Benefits of Round Robin Tournaments?

A round robin tournament gives every player a fair chance.

In a standard elimination tournament, a weaker player may face a stronger player in the first round, getting eliminated without getting to compete against players of the same skill level.

The round robin format places the players on equal footing as everyone competes against everyone. This system is fairer and reduces the element of luck.

Players may also get more opportunities to succeed compared to other tournament styles. If a player has a bad performance during one match, he or she often has additional matches to try and win.

These tournaments also provide a more accurate representation of each player’s ability.

By the end of the tournament, the players have completed an equal number of matches. The win/loss records of the players offer a better indicator of overall performance.

What are the disadavantages?

The main drawback to round robin in tennis is the number of matches that are needed to determine a winner.

A four-person tournament only requires 6 matches. However, a 5-person tournament requires 10 matches.

When you add more players, the number of matches may make the tournament too long. With 10 players, the round robin tournament requires 45 matches.

Luckily, it is possible to reduce the number of matches by dividing the players into groups.

For example, 10 players can be divided into two groups of five players. Each group plays ten matches. With a final match between the top player from each group, the tournament would only require 21 matches.

Another potential drawback is that some players may need to continue competing after they have no chance of winning the tournament.

For example, in a straight round robin tournament with five players, each player plays four matches.

A player who loses three matches still needs to compete in the fourth match even though he or she cannot win the tournament.


Round robin is a popular style of tournament that is used in a variety of sporting events, including tennis. With many players, the players are often divided into groups and the tournament is played in rounds.

These tournaments require every player to compete against each other. However, these tournaments may become lengthy due to the number of matches required.

Round robin tennis is considered a fair type of tournament as everyone has an equal chance of winning the tournament.

Players may also continue competing after losing a match, unlike a knockout or elimination-style tournament.

I hope this clears things up so you understand how this tourament method can work in tennis.

Let me know if you think round robin tournaments are a good or bad idea in tennis.

Have you entered one yourself?

Feel free to enter any comments below.

round robin in tennis | how does it work

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Author: Graham Scott

Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a "little noise" about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.

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