There seems to be an increase in voices dissenting about the length of the tennis season. This is not a new problem, but since there was the spate of withdrawals at the Masters Cup and the preceding TMS events such as Madrid and Paris this year, in addition to the fact that is the more of the top players that are withdrawing from these events, has brought this issue back into the limelight.
It doesn’t matter that players have been getting injured before, but now since it’s the top players and the bigger cash cows, that they decide this is an issue, whereas it simmered in the background before, this and the increase of tennis on hardcourts is a factor in this process, but more on that later.
So, who are the losers in these circumstances? Whether people like these players or not, the top players do generate extra ticket sales, advertising and more revenue for the tournament, so the tournament directors aren’t happy, as for the fans they are not usually the first people considered, as it is usually the corporate and the sponsors that are taken care of first, before the average fan is considered. Fans have only one thing in common in that they like tennis, what one fan might complain and sigh none of the stars are so they won’t watch, while others will take the opportunity and appreciate the tennis is on offer and not just cause of the name.
The tennis season goes through from January to December and there is a minimal break for the players and fans. It's too long and the off season isn't long enough for them to recover from the year and prepare physically in that period for the next season. Though the only players who can take time off properly during the season are the better ranked players, who can afford to do so. At the same time players with the current schedule have to be flexible and play the tournaments they need and what suits them instead of just chasing the cash.
This is a multi dimensional problem. Having spoken to many people in different sporting fields, trainers and personal experience, there needs to be sufficient recovery times for athletes and also these players will have different peaks during the year. It is the competitive nature of the sport as well, that can lead to mental fatigue as well as physical fatigue. In an ideal world the players will want to peak for the four Slams, using the lead- up TMS events in the process of attempting to peak at the Slams, but this is not always the reality. Don’t believe the bullshit and propaganda from the English-language press and commentators that all the players want to win Wimbledon. There are many Spanish-speaking players who want to be at full peak for Roland Garros and then come down after that, while there are many who use Roland Garros as fitness, so they can be prepared for Wimbledon and the US Open.
The Australian Open is a clear example of who has prepared well in the off-season and this should be rewarded, but in reality the lead up for a Slam is too short and there would be a TMS before it, though that would involve a large restructuring of the tennis calendar. The transition from clay to grass is notoriously difficult, yet it has a very short timeframe for it to happen. Ideally Wimbledon would move back a week or so and give the players an extra week to adjust to the grass, but Wimbledon is generally all about its own interests and not necessarily for the game, even more so than the other Slams. For something like this to be discussed, this would mean disparate groups such as the ATP, ITF, tournament directors would have to come together and make compromises for the better of the sport, if there are enough forward thinking individuals within the respective organisations to do that.
The second part of this issue will be continued in the next posting.