Every year, at least once or twice, Rafael Nadal very publicly complains about the fact that, in his opinion at least, the ATP World Tour schedule is too demanding on players. He has a pretty valid argument. The season lasts from early-to-mid January until late November. And that 6-week break is really the only chance players get to practice consistently and work on tweaking their games. Competitive tennis at the highest level is very physically demanding. And it makes sense that Nadal would be the one to complain-his style is tougher on the body than just about anyone else on tour’s. Couple that with the fact that he plays a lot of matches because he rarely loses and we can realize why the schedule is tougher on him than anyone else.
Just for background, let’s quickly go over exactly what the schedule entails. Without getting too detailed, any year-end top 30 player is called a commitment player. A commitment player is obligated to participate in the following year’s 4 Grand Slams, 8 Masters 1000 events, and 4 of the 11 500-level events. So the minimum requirement for these players is 16 tournaments. These are decently spread out, except for a very tough stretch in May-July. The schedule is approximately as follows, with slight year-to-year variations: the Australian Open is in mid-January. There are two Masters event in late March-early April. May is one of the toughest months, with 2 Masters events and the French Open. Wimbledon is a month after the French Open. Following that most top players take a 6-week break. August is then similar to May, with two Masters events and the US Open. The final two Masters events are in October and November, respectively, with the World Tour Finals for the top 8 in late November.
That schedule is honestly not too rough, with a few patches that really test a player’s body. Adding in 4 of the smaller 500-level tournaments can be taxing, but a player should be able to spread them out without too much trouble. The real issue is Davis Cup. Davis Cup is the world team competition where each player plays for their country against another country. Honestly, Davis Cup times are just bad. One round is the week after Wimbledon and another is the week after the US Open. A top player, like Federer this past week, could be forced to travel from New York to Australia to play a Davis Cup match as little as 4 days after he loses in the US Open final (Federer had 6 days because he lost in the semifinals). Now, Davis Cup is not obligatory but it does involve quite a bit of pride for the countries involved. Also, a player has to be available to play in Davis Cup at least twice every 4 years to be eligible to play in the Olympics.
So what happens if a commitment player chooses not to play in one of the obligatory events? Usually nothing. They obviously won’t receive points for the tournament and won’t be able to replace those points with another smaller tournament some other time in the year. Missing a Masters tournament could also result in a suspension from a later Masters tournament. However, that suspension is waived if the player comes to event and engages in whatever media and promotional activities that the tournament wants. As far as I can recall, such a suspension has not been enforced in the past few years. And the only “penalty” for skipping 500-level tournaments is that if a player does not play enough of them then he will not be able to count all of his 500-level tournaments for part of the following year.
For the entire article, please click here
. As always, thoughts and opinions are welcome and requested.