18 tourneys/year is really too much???
From Tennis Mailbag:
A few thoughts as the season winds to an end ...
1. Get me rewrite! For months now, the WTA has been less stable than AIG's stock price. But the hits keep coming. Dinara Safina lost to an unknown player yet again -- the latest being wild card Zhang Shuai in the second round of the China Open -- and surrendered the top ranking to Serena Williams. However, Serena didn't fare too well herself, falling in the third round to Nadia Petrova in a match that turned on ... wait for it ... a hotly disputed line call. Maria Sharapova ran out of steam in a third-round loss to Peng Shuai. Venus Williams was upset by Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the second time in a week. And Svetlana Kuznetsova returned from the deep freeze to win the Beijing title. Inasmuch as budget cuts are looming at WTA HQ, here's a plea to spare the tour's scriptwriter. Week in and week out, the material is reliably riveting.
2. If Rafael Nadal's career were traded publicly, the short sellers would be out in full force come fall. Mr. October, he ain't. As a matter of ritual, Nadal's results go off a cliff in the autumn, a function of the grueling, violent tennis he plays in the first half of the year. Still, the state of Nadal's game -- and, more specifically, his body -- is more than a little troubling.
After missing June and July with knee injuries, Nadal returned for the U.S. hard-court swing, but his progress was undone by an abdominal injury. Clearly injured in the U.S. Open semifinal, he offered little resistance against Juan Martin del Potro. Last week he was thrashed in a similar fashion, mustering just four games against Marin Cilic in a semifinal in China. While Nadal abides by the "jock code" and doesn't attribute defeat to injury, it's clear he is playing hurt. (The stats don't lie either: He had zero aces and lost the majority of points on his serve against Cilic. That's saying something.) When one of the sport's most magnetic figures -- a supreme athlete and consummate professional -- simply cannot make it through a season abiding by the entry rules as currently written, think it might be time to rethink the schedule?
3. As the seasons wind down, it's an appropriate time for players to take stock of their careers. For most, it means plotting for 2010 and contriving a playing schedule that enables them to maximize gain and minimize risk, usually in the form of injury or emotional fatigue. For others, particularly on the wrong side of 30, it entails deciding whether to soldier on or step away.
Fabrice Santoro, Marat Safin, Nathalie Dechy, Ai Sugiyama and Denmark's Kristian Pless have gently informed us of their departures. It will be interesting to see which of their colleagues join them. An online BBC sports poll last week asked readers: "Do you think Amelie Mauresmo will call it a day?" Ultimately, though, these are deeply personal decisions that depend on what answers the athletes get when they ask the tough questions of themselves.
What Andy and Nadal said:
SHANGHAI (AP) -- Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick complained Tuesday that the ATP season is too long and that tennis players need a proper offseason.
Both players, who are in China for the Shanghai Masters, reiterated criticism of the sport's punishing schedule.
"It's impossible to play 1st of January and finish 5th of December," said the 23-year-old Nadal, who did not defend his title at Wimbledon because of a knee injury. "It's impossible to be here playing like what I did the last five years, playing a lot of matches and being all the time 100 percent without problems."
Roddick, a veteran at 27, said players need a longer offseason to recover, and noted that both Roger Federer (fatigue) and Andy Murray (wrist injury) are skipping the Shanghai tournament.
"It's ridiculous to think that you have a professional sport that doesn't have a legitimate offseason to rest, get healthy, and then train," Roddick said. "I just feel sooner or later that common sense has to prevail."
The top players on the men's tour are required to play at eight of the nine Master Series events -- with Monte Carlo being the exception. And the top eight players of the year also have an extra week by qualifying for next month's season-ending tournament in London.
Roddick said that merging the player's union and tournament operation under the ATP umbrella, which was considered a cutting-edge concept that would benefit the players when instituted in 1990, hasn't turned out to be overwhelmingly positive.
"I certainly don't see any other sporting leagues or federations following our lead as far as not being individually represented," Roddick said. "I don't know that it's up to the players to be making business decisions about the schedule. At a certain point, I wish our input would be.
"It's got to be someone's job to figure that out, right?"
Roddick blasts 'ridiculous'
Share Print It My T&R An exasperated Andy Roddick said the ATP men's tour must give players more time to rest during the season or risk shortening the careers of the "stars" of the sport. The world number six lost to qualifier Lukasz Kubot in the first match of his title defense at the China Open last week and said then that the top players were playing too much tennis. He renewed his attack at the Shanghai Masters on Monday while admitting the ultimate negotiating tool, a players' strike, was unlikely. "I think it's ridiculous to think that you have a professional sport that doesn't have a legitimate off season to rest, get healthy, and then train," the 27-year-old told reporters at his 16th tournament of the season. World number one Roger Federer pulled out of Shanghai citing fatigue, while number three Andy Murray blamed a wrist injury for his absence from the inaugural $3.24 million tournament. "I don't think that's all of one big coincidence, and I just hope that the shortsightedness doesn't affect the length of careers," he said. "I think in tennis you definitely want your stars around as long as possible." The top 30 men's players are obliged to play the four two-week grand slam events and eight of the nine Masters Series tournaments. In addition, their best four results in ATP 500 events and best two in lower level tournaments count toward their rankings, effectively meaning they must play at least 18 a year.