This article was first published yesterday in our bespoke Sports newsletter The Fixture. You can sign up in seconds to receive it straight to your inbox every weekday here.

The Fixture enjoys nothing more than discovering an obscure sport to delve into. There's something faintly secondary school project about filling in a figurative scrapbook with nuggets of information and then ruminating over what it all might mean for humankind by way of a series of partially conceived arguments and conclusions.

Today is one of those days. Writing a newsletter fosters the reading of lots of other newsletters. This can be very useful when wading through the murky swamp searching for something a bit different to write about. Every so often something relatively uncharted comes along that causes you to wade a little deeper.

Tiebreak Top Tens is one such appendage to a traditional sport (tennis) that seems to place it in the same bracket as T20 cricket or rugby sevens, truncated versions of more elongated formats that have been introduced to appeal to younger spectators and those with attention spans shorter than the contents of your average household fish tank – which, come to think of it, are practically one and the same thing in the smartphone/iPad/games console era.

But what is it? The format returns in Indian Wells from tomorrow with a new addition to the series in the shape of mixed doubles. There is little to wrap your head around in terms of the nuts and bolts of the sport – essentially matches are comprised solely of tiebreakers, so that means no games and no sets, just some frantic, high-pressure rallies. Such is the speed of how quickly matches gallop along that the seven-match tournament will be completed in around two hours on the same night – which is a broadcaster's dream.

Of course, if this sounds a tad familiar then that's because Tiebreak Top Tens also goes by the name of the Eisenhower Cup and will contain some of the world's biggest names when it gets underway tomorrow evening. There is a strong British team with Scotland's Cam Norrie – last year's winner in Indian Wells – paired alongside the 2021 US Open champion Emma Radacanu and another containing the best women's player in the world, Iga Swiatek, who won two grand slams in 2022 alongside her fellow Pole, the 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz. Men’s world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari have also been regular partners for Greece at the United Cup and Hopman Cup, while Jessica Pegula and Tommy Paul will represent the United States.

The Eisenhower Cup is not just for national teams, though, since Ons Jabeur, the world No.4 from Tunisia and Casper Rudd, the No.4 in the men's game make up another strong pairing. There is no great surprise that the teams are so stacked since those who are eligible to play in the event must either be in, or have been in, the top 14 in the global rankings. Tomorrow night's event will have a winner-takes-all prize of £166,480 which will be donated to local charities.


Asked for a copy and paste quote for the Tiebreak Top Tens official website, Andy Murray – twice a tournament finalist in London in 2015 and Vienna in 2016 – said: “It’s a really enjoyable format. There is room for something like this in tennis.”

As sparse as the comment from Scotland's greatest tennis player is, there is a clue to the status of 'Tens' in the overall scheme of the sport.

Speaking at the Dubai event in 2021, tournament director Jimmy Poon, said he believed the format is “Paving the way for the future of tennis. Whether you are an avid tennis fan, a young tennis player or just seeking an entertaining evening watching sport of the highest quality, TB10s events energise fans of the sport at all levels.”

He might have a point. Last year, tennis' four grand slam events – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – all reached agreement that they would adopt a super tiebreak (effectively the first player to reach 10) to be played when the score reaches 6-6 in the final set.

The change was made to limit late finishes that wreaked havoc with schedules at some slams and increased player fatigue but also “to create greater consistency in the rules of the game at the Grand Slams, and thus enhance the experience for the players and fans alike”.

Nevertheless, it was also a sure sign that the success of the fringe format of the sport is beginning to have an impact on the powers that be.