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from Eurosport:

Australian Open could move

Growing player discontent and fierce temperatures in Australia in January could force the first grand slam of the tennis season to move to March. "Melbourne comes right at the start of the season. It's a highlight that comes too soon," said ITF President Francesco Ricci-Bitti.

Players complain the Australian Open starts too soon after their brief close season in December so players are ill-prepared for one of the most important tournaments of the year.

Ricci-Bitti said the ITF was talking to the ATP, which organises the men's tour, about moving a couple of U.S. tournaments to make way for a later Australian Open. "This way the players could gradually build up to the first highlight of the season," Die Welt quoted him as saying.

Agassi, a three-times Australian Open champion, said a later start would "give us more chance to relax in what you could call the off-season and it would allow for a better build-up and for better tennis at the Open".

Players currently finish the season early in December usually indoors in northern winter then, after three weeks, race to the blazing heat of the southern summer for two weeks of warm-up tournaments before the first grand slam starts.

Last year's runner-up Marat Safin said tennis players had the shortest holidays in sport. "In every other sport...they have time to recover, vacations with their families and time to prepare themselves for the next season," the Russian, ranked third in the world, said.

Former world number one Navratilova believes the Australian Open is downright dangerous. "It could take someone dying before things will change but I firmly believe the Australian Open should be put back a month until at least February," the American three-times former champion wrote in the Australian newspaper this week.


Reuters
 

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CALL TO PUSH BACK AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Agassi also threw his weight behind calls to push the Australian Open back in the year on Wednesday, saying it would enhance the quality of the season's first grand slam.

"From an ideal standpoint, everybody would be better served if it was pushed back in the year," he said. "It would give us (players) more chance to relax in what you could call the off-season and it would allow for a better build up and for better tennis at the Open. You get some pretty surprising results often because everybody is straight out of the blocks."

Former women's number one Martina Navratilova led calls for the grand slam to be put back a month to February to let the players have a longer Christmas break and avoid the hottest part of the Australian summer.

"It could take someone dying before things will change," she said in her column for The Australian newspaper.

Navratilova won the Australian Open three times but refused to play again after 1989 when it moved from the grass courts of Kooyong to the Rebound Ace at Melbourne Park even though she continued her career for another five years.

"I would have loved to have kept playing here (but) it's too hot in January," the 46-year-old said. "When you're playing a match and all you can think of is how to stay cool, trying to find any shade on court, that is no good for anybody."

Navratilova will nonetheless be returning this year, but in doubles, as she attempts to repeat last week's success in Gold Coast when teamed up with Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova to become the oldest circuit player, male or female, singles or doubles, to win a tournament.


Eurosport
FP & Reuters 08/01/2003
 

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ITF considers rescheduling Australian Open, Wimbledon

January 8, 2003

LONDON (Ticker) - International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci-Bitti on Wednesday unveiled plans to move the Australian Open to March.

In Wednesday's edition of the German newspaper Die Welt, Ricci-Bitti also suggested Wimbledon may be rescheduled from its traditional slot in June and July.

Players have complained frequently that the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event of the season which starts on Monday, comes too soon after the winter hiatus and leaves them with too little time to properly prepare for such an important event.

"Melbourne comes right at the start of the season. It's a highlight that comes too soon," Ricci-Bitti told the newspaper. "That's why we are in talks with the ATP to move Indian Wells and Key Biscayne to February and the indoor tournaments in Europe could start the season in January."

Three-time Australian Open champion Andre Agassi said he thinks the Melbourne event should be contested three weeks later.

"I think there are a lot of surprise results here because of the fact that it's just right out of the blocks," the American said.

Ricci-Bitti also said that if a decision is made to move Wimbledon, it will not be executed before 2005.

Players have grumbled that Wimbledon, which is contested on the speedy grass courts of the All England Club, starts too soon after the French Open, which is played on the slow clay of Roland Garros. This season, Wimbledon begins June 23, just 15 days after the French Open concludes.
 
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