What you never knew about Round Robin

June 6, 2017

As a tennis player I have always heard people propose Round Robin tournaments. Recently, it dawned on me that I do not know much about Round Robin tournaments. As a tennis instructor Round Robin was code for lets make sure no one complains about not playing someone.  It’s simple all you need to do is plop people on courts and rotate in a clockwise fashion until everyone has played each other. But, I was curious to know where this style of play originated from so I did a little bit of digging to better understand the origin of this popular tennis tournament style.   Read this article to stay well rounded when it comes to understanding Round Robin, or be square.

Tennis playing seamen?

Round Robin was used in many different contexts. The term Round Robin can be traced back to the 16th century where people used it as a term simply meaning round. In other words you could have made the statement “Wow, those pancakes are round robin” and people would have found you still completely normal However, the term that correlates most to the tennis style Round Robin was coined by seamen. The 1730 January edition of The Weekly Journal reported that a “Round Robin is a name given by Seamen, to an Instrument on which they sign their Names round a Circle.” By signing their names in a circle the person that they are petitioning would not know who the Ring-leader was. There was a similar form of petition in France called “rond rouban where people wrote their names on a circle of ribbon.

Examples of Round Robin petitions












Round Robin’s Use in Tennis today 

In 1985 the Official Lawn Tennis Bulletin posted an article speaking about the Round Robin tournament that allows “each man” to play every other man forming the best possible test of tennis skill. Why use Round Robin Tournament brackets? Round Robin is great for playing tennis in a fun and relaxed environment. Since it is “round” no one gets disqualified for losing a match. Another great feature about Round Robin is that it can ensure that everyone gets to play each other. For example, during tennis tryouts we would play Round Robin tournaments because rotations are timed ensuring everyone stays on track with matches. However, Round Robin is not completely suitable for tryouts because we all know a few players, including myself, that do not warm up until later on in a match so matches being cut short due to time can be annoying. 

Want Help Setting Up a Round Robin Tournament?

Sometimes setting up a Round Robin tournament and keeping score can get confusing. At Plan2Play we can help you set up a tennis schedule planning out who plays who. Easily set up a Round Robin Tournament so you and a few friends can use the limited time you have on indoor courts rented out. 


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