Rubber match

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Rubber match’?

A sporting event in a series, such as a tournament, where both sides are tied in terms of the number of events won and lost. The phrase serves to depict the deciding game which determines the overall winner.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Rubber match’?

It’s plausible that the phrase “Rubber match” originated in the late 1500s in the game of lawn bowling.

Similar to the modern game of boules, the aim of the game was for players to roll their wooden ball as close as possible to a smaller white ball at the other end of a level green. A tie-breaking game in a series of such matches was referred to as a “Rubber match” when there equal numbers of events won and lost between opponents. Thus, a “rubber match” is a decider round, or decider match of a tournament.

The earliest documented use of the phrase was in cards however. In the mid 1700s, the word “rubber”, and later, “Rubber match” began to be known for use in games such as whist and bridge, and this expanded to a great many other sports and games in the context of decider rounds. Soon, the phrase “Rubber match” struck a cord across many other games and sports, as it marks heightened tension in a tournament.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘‘Rubber match’?

The phrase is firmly in parlance today in sports commentary and journalism, across several different sport tournaments, including The Ashes and the ODI series (cricket), the NBA finals (basketball), the MLB series (baseball), tennis’s Davis Cup, as well as in boxing and mixed martial arts series, such as the UFC. It was even used in the blockbuster film series, “Rocky” .

Cari Mayhew - Author at Phrase Finder

Cari Mayhew

Lifelong learner, phrase fanatic, and lover of literature across multiple genres. Cari Mayhew has a passion for expression, and a keen curiosity for how phrases begin and how their use transforms over time. She is often found looking for the ideal idiom to convey her thoughts and musings.