Above you will find two articles where both Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin gives their own opinion of the ATP Tour schedule. I don’t know about you, but I find the Hewitt article somewhat confusing. The article seems to imply that he is OK with the schedule the way it is, and that players know their own bodies and should schedule accordingly. But he also says that players should not be obliged to play every tournament. As far as I know the players are not obliged to play every tournament, so that statement doesn’t make much sense either. I think the top players are obliged to play the Masters Series events, but then again Roger withdrew from Shanghai so it’s obviously not a must. I don’t think that he is getting penalized for it, the ranking points that he loses should be penalty enough.
All I know is that when players try to qualify for the year end Masters, the ATP takes lets say their best 14 tournaments. So if they play less then that then their chances of qualifying will significantly decrease, and the more tournaments they play the better the chance that their best 14 tournaments will yield more points. On the other hand if they play too much, they will get injured and maybe not even be fit for the year end Masters. Clearly I’m no ranking expert, but the fact that Hewitt says that players know their own bodies, makes Rafa’s complaints even more void. Rafa knows his body like all the other players do, yet he chooses to stretch it and therefor gets injured. Things become a little more clear when Safin speaks:
“They just have to deal with that, not when they are 21 and ambitious and want to make money. They have to think a bit with their brains to make their careers a little bit longer.”
Here is my honest opinion: I think they have to do something about the scheduling. Tennis players’ careers are simply too short. The only ones that last long are the ones who schedule smart and take very good care of themselves. The fact that tennis players’ careers are so short is because they know it is short, so that when they are young they play as much as they can and make as much money as possible. And why are their careers so short? Because the ATP schedule is too demanding. I agree with the people who says the players should get off two months at the end of the year instead of one. It wouldn’t be so much fun for us fans to have to months with no tennis, but we are waiting that long for Roger anyway. Roger is going to take his time off from the tour whether the ATP gives it to him or not.
Hewitt also praised Federer, who opted to miss the three-week Asian season, for his ability to master his schedule to suit himself and his new family.
“That’s something that Federer has been extremely good at,” added Hewitt, who is focussing his own season on January’s Australian Open.
And why does Roger schedule so well? Because he is in tennis for the right reasons. You never hear him complain about the schedule, because no one is forcing the players to play every single tournament. Lets be honest here, Rafa is just being a little baby. The so-called great ‘Spartan Warrior’ can’t even resist playing tournaments, he needs the ATP to force him into doing so. The simple truth is that if Roger can do it, then so can Rafa. Roger is the real warrior because he can actually make decisions for himself, he doesn’t need the ATP to make it for him. This comes back to priorities. There are many temptations on the straight and narrow path that leads to greatness. Players are constantly tempted by huge sums of money to play in tournaments, and if your priorities are not right, you will dwell off that path.
Madness??? THIS IS TEN-NIS!!!
That is exactly what Rafa is doing. He is allowing these people to lure him into playing at the cost of true greatness. For example he is complaining about the schedule, but he has already committed to Abu Dhabi over the new year which is an exhibition event, and is obviously going to pay him big money just for showing up. Is the ATP schedule tough? Of course it is! And as I said I would like to see the season shortened by an additional month. But does that mean you cannot schedule smart and listen to your body? No again. The ATP does not enslave players to play themselves into retirement. Just look at how Roger has cut down on his schedule the last couple of years. Even in his prime years he took a break when his body had enough.Roger said the following a while ago about Davis Cup:
“People like it still that I am the No 1 or the No 1 again so I have to make a hard decision, the one or the other [either the tour or the Davis Cup] because both together is not working, I feel it myself, it is consuming. If I hadn’t played the Davis Cup I maybe would have gone to Asia, so you see how much energy the Davis Cup takes [out of you]”.
Once again making the decision not to play Davis Cup would be a very hard one, but Roger is prepared to make it if the ATP is not going to help him out. I think it’s sad that the schedule is so tough that Roger can’t even play Davis Cup for his country. This is where I feel the ATP has to look at things more closely. Things are not likely to change any time soon though, because the next few year’s schedule have already been locked in back in 2007 and 2008 by various parties. Apparently a couple of years back Roger told the then-chairman of the ATP, Etienne De Villiers, that the schedule was OK as long as there are enough breaks in between in which he can recuperate. The Safin article mentions two problems with the current schedule which I agree with very much.
The one is the short break between the French Open and Wimbledon which is only two weeks. It’s also two very different surfaces and to adjust, players have to play a grass court tournament in between as well. Of course this year Roger chose not to play Halle as he usually does, because he was simply too exhausted after his epic French Open win. He still went on to win Wimbledon, but ideally you want to at least play one grass court tournament before Wimbledon. Either way, with only four majors a year, two weeks between two of them is almost absurd. First of all I want to see a longer grass court season, and second I want to see more time between the French Open and Wimbledon. If you make the final of the French Open and Wimbledon like Roger did the last four years, those six weeks just kills you.
What they can do to make the grass court season longer, is to cut down on both the clay court season and the North American hard court season after Wimbledon. This way they can play Wimbledon at a later time and the French Open at an earlier time. This in turn will give a more even spread of the four majors throughout the year. The other thing they could also do is to start the year a little later, and not plat the Australian Open so early on. It’s no wonder Roger has to take it easy at this point in the year. Those six weeks from the start of the French Open to the end of Wimbledon is just brutal for him, especially this year. If you have a more even spread of the majors during the year it would be more interesting for the fans as well, and it would make it easier for the fans to then for instance give players a longer break at the end of the year.
The second thing the article mentions is the US Open scheduling, which is just dismal in my opinion. The fact that the semi’s and final are on consecutive days is just silly. This is also one of the reasons Roger is now so exhausted. Clearly the ATP schedule can be improved upon a lot. At the same time that does not hinder someone like Rafa from cutting down on his own schedule and looking after his body better. Stop complaining dude!