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My Take On The ATP Scheduling Issues

October 27, 2009

Pretty slow week for ATP fans. In the most shocking news of the week so far, Juan Monaco won a hard court match, and Ernests Gulbis won a tennis match. Although Ernie needs to win far more than that to get back in my good books. Due to the lack of news, I thought I’d contribute my opinion to the much thrashed ATP scheduling topic. I’ll try and keep this pretty short because I know it is far from an original topic.

First of all, I don’t believe the number of mandatory events is an issue. All up, tennis players have 25 weeks worth of tournaments, assuming they make it to the second week in the slams. 25 weeks of a 10-15 year career is something I’d happily swap my 48 week, god-knows-how-many-years-long career for. Jelena Jankovic really got on my bad side when she bemoaned the amount she had to practise and play. They get paid millions, I get paid rubbish. They do something they love, I do something I dislike most of the time. Playing 25 weeks of the year really doesn’t seem to be a big ask for the amount they get paid. They could always quit and get a normal job.

I do, however, think there is a problem. I mean, there has to be. Lots of players are currently injured. Andy Roddick, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Juan Martin del Potro… and the list goes on. Of course, noone really seemed to be injured at the US Open, it was post slam that these injuries seemed to rear their heads. Indeed, it seems to be well agreed upon that the real problems happen after the final slam. Players are lacking motivation and energy. The last thing they want to be doing in travelling to Asia, then Europe, for the final Masters and WTF.

Herein lies the issues; travel and sufficient post slam rest. Wimbledon has almost a month where the top players do not need to compete, as does the Australian Open. The French runs onto grass pretty quickly but we all know and expect that. Yet players seems to be in action far too quickly after the US Open, and more to the point, they have two continents to visit in as many months. The gap between the final slam and the WTF to signify the end of the season seems a touch too long and gruelling. Hence the amount of injuries and fatigue.

Players also want a longer off season. In order to satisfy everyone, it seems the answer is to shorten the post US Open season and play the WTF at a more reasonable date… like… now. In between there would be perhaps one Masters events, and that would be Paris to make the trip to London more convieniant. Of course, that leaves Shanghai.

I am a big believer in promoting tennis in Asia. Shanghai, Tokyo, and Beijing all need to happen. Where we could fit them in, I know not. But their place on the calender needs to change. Currently, they are getting a bunch of retirements, withdrawls, and lacklustre top players. It is simply not fair. Would it be possible to hold these tournaments earlier in the year? If the players took most of November, December off… could the Asian swing be played in Febuary?

There is only a few more things that I feel need addressing. I have heard some people suggest that keeping the schedule the way it is and players ‘calling in sick’ is acceptable. I do not feel this is fair on the tournaments that are missing out. The advertisements for Shanghai had pictures of Federer and Murray, but both these men pulled out. Paying for matches that end in retirements is also not a good way to promote our sport.

I do feel that the ATP is looking into these issues. A few top players, I believe Davydenko was one, said they know their concerns are being addressed. Changes will take time. It is also my belief that Nadal’s on going injuries will not be solved by cutting down on his schedule. That boy has serious knee tendonitis, he has had problems since the start of the year, never mind the end.

As a tennis fan I have no issues with a long season. Most individual sports are year round. The off season does need to be extended, but I feel the main problems are with the amount of travelling. It just doesn’t seem logical at times. Hopefully the ATP’s Helfant will sort things soon. As for the WTA, I think their schedule looks pretty damn good to me.

Off topic, good luck to the girls in Doha, I hope it is a really good tournament with high quality tennis. And… begrudgingly… good luck to Gulbis too.


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