Friday, November 25, 2005

Too Much Tennis Part 2

The season should be shortened, there are too many tournaments at the moment. Sure, players are playing exhibitions in December after some rest, most of these are just hit and giggle affairs, but as was said in the last entry, the competitive aspect of tennis is very tough and the week in, week out nature, contributes to mental fatigue as well and unlike golf, tennis is a physical sport and out of the other main global sports it does have the shortest off season. Well, considering all the vested interests involved in the game, it will be extremely difficult to initiate any changes without some compromise.

For example look at Formula 1, there are many things that aren't good about the sport, but they have a clear and defined off season where they do their testing, the drivers do their training and then when the season starts there is a keen anticipation as there is enough time in between the off season and the new season to generate sufficient interest in the events, whereas sadly with tennis, it seems there is a convergence from the last season straight into the next one. It hasn't affected the commercial interests and the prosperity of the sport, by not having races every week.

Football is another sport, where in many matches there are plenty of empty seats in stadia and not as much money coming through as previously, the commercial bubble has burst, many fans priced out of watching the game, it happens in tennis and could even get worse in this regard and it seems to be more about sponsors than fans and not balanced as it should be. People not caring about a Mickey Mouse trophy, even further separation between the fans and the millionaires.

There are too many hardcourts events and they adversely effect the joints and is harder on the body than the clay for example, but there needs to be a reduction of tournaments on hardcourts, clay and indoors. At the same time it's a global sport and this needs to be reflected in the calendar. There would have to be some structural changes but there will be a clear surface distinction as well for example.

- The season would start in the first week of Feb and finish in November.
- The first 4 weeks would be a lead in to the Aus Open with a TMS in the 3rd week, and then once the Aus Open in March is finished. That would be 6 weeks of hardcourt/Rebound Ace.

- Then Davis Cup 1st round matches and after that the claycourt season begins in week 8 in South America with a clay TMS in Buenos Aires in Week 10 and finishes in week 19 at the end of the French Open, which is the third week of June.

- There will be no claycourt events at ATP level after that, this would mean that there would be a two break between the TMS events, and maybe some of the other tournaments could be moved to earlier dates or have two or maybe three of them in the off weeks. Week 20 at the end of June the grasscourt season begins.

- Then for the whole month of July it's grasscourt tennis with a week 21 TMS grass event, then optional event and the last two weeks are for Wimbledon.

- The start of August the DC quarters which is week 25, then after that it's the lead in for the US Open on the hardcourts with an Asian/North American hardcourt circuit before heading to North America for 2 TMS events and a warm up for the US Open which would be in week 31/32 the last weeks of September.

- October would have the DC semis, then after that it would be much reduced indoor season, which would last 4 weeks, from week 34/37 it would have Madrid and Paris in week 35 and 37 respectively, then the TMC and Davis Cup final.

- The vast majority of players would half of November, all of December and January free from tennis tournaments. It would provide clear transition from surfaces, gives a TMS to grass, while taking a way a hardcourt one, making sure there is at least a 2 week gap between TMS events.

It would mean shedding a few tournaments, and maybe having some more tournaments where there are 3 events in non-TMS weeks, plus some will re-organise into different positions in the calendar.

This would reduce the workload, give the players and fans a break from the game and while injuries are always going to be a factor within professional sport, the calendar would not be blamed as there are clear transition periods between surfaces.

It is disappointing that it has to take the withdrawals of certain players for this issue to be discussed, then again there has always been a hierarchy in society and tennis is no different in this regard. If the top cash cows aren't playing, then the product suffers and for this reason and not to respect the players or fans, will more than likely be the cause of any changes to the tennis schedule.


Aphex said...

I wrote a long-ass comment this morning, but I didn't see you had to decipher stuff to get in. Maybe I try again later.


Joel said...

Very good points here. Like you said, the bottom line is that now that the injuries to the very top players are forcing Masters Series tournaments entry lists to suffer, people suddenly start caring. If this stuff happens to people outside of the top 10, it is simply deemed part of the game. It's unfortunate it takes this to start dialogue between the powers that be, but I guess the fact it is happening is a step in the right direction.

Denys said...

Interesting solutions and points raised to this very relevant issue. It is disappointing to see that it has to take something like these injuries to top players, for the powers to be even to be discussing it, but with any restructuring there are going to be some casualties, I just hope it can produce a better balanced calendar, but I wonder when anything will really happen.

Aphex said...

Ok, here goes my thoughts on the subject. A relatively simple way to reduce the ATP schedule by three weeks.

Make Indian Wells a one week event again. Have TMS Madrid and TMS Paris back to back. Take off the week inbetween. Move the optionals week of Basel/Lyon/St Petersburg to the empty week after Paris TMS. Then transfer Tokyo and Metz to other weeks of the calendar and have their week off as well. Voilà! Three weeks shorter season! Unless you play the DC Final of course. But most players don't play that every year.

Aphex said...

Oh, I forget. Another thing, they should change the rankings to best of 17 or even best of 16, including the TMC. And they should only make players have to play 7 out of 9 TMS events. That should also ease up the workload of the very top players.

The players of course still will have the responsibility to make a sensible own schedule. Perhaps not play for six weeks straight on indoors and hardcourt injuring their feet.

Sigurd Sigurdsson said...

Thanks for the comments on this subject. Yes, there is definitely the theory as long as the top players aren't impacted too much, then tennis is good, even though this has been an ongoing problem for a while.

Aphex, I agree about not having TMS events more than a week. The 64 player draw is enough and having a 96 draw is a waste of time, it's not like Miami and Indian Wells can't use all the facilities.

I am not sure about weeks off during season, when Davis Cup is not played on that weekend, but as was mentioned responsibility does need to focus on the players and as for the TMS events, does there really need to be 9 of them?

mandoura said...

Good points GWH and the rest of the comments.

When I read Part I, the Formula 1 came to mind as you mentioned in Part II.

Here, we have 2 breaks during the season. One during the holy month of Ramadan because most of the players are fasting and in January. It gives time to players to regroup and be ready.

I think ATP should get help from some amateurs rather than professionals. The formers are motivated by the love of the game and how to make it better while the latters are motivated by money issues and how to maximize profits.

Not that money is not important but, once in a while, the game itself and the well being of the players should be taken into consideration.

Aphex said...

That was something I wanted to ask you. In 'Tennis off the record' they say the Super 9 tournies were Super 11 the first couple of years. Do you know if this is true and if so which were the additional two tournaments?

Sigurd Sigurdsson said...

I always thought when they started this whole Super 9 thing is that it was only 9 events.

I will see what information that I can find on the subject and get back to you. I know the 3 clay events plus Montreal, Cincinatti are traditional events, as for the others they aren't as old as those 5 TMS events.