2012 was a good year for tennis overall. There were seven (out of a possible eight) different winners in the singles category of the four Grand Slam tournaments. Talk about competition! 2012 was the one year in recent times that was not one-sided as the years before. Added to the four Grand Slams were this year's Summer Olympics. Many called the London Olympics the "fifth Slam."
Serena Williams was the odd person out of the seven, as she won more than one Grand Slam in 2012. She was dominant in all competition after the French Open. On the men's side, Andy Murray dominated after Wimbledon by grabbing Olympic gold as well as the U.S. Open title.
The question on everyone's mind became: Is there room for a fifth Grand Slam in tennis? Let us see how the ATP and WTA tours are scheduled and see if it actually makes sense to repeat this year's experience (assuming the Olympics would be a fifth Slam).
The Australian Open was held on January 16. The French Open was May 27. Wimbledon was held June 25, while the U.S. Open was held August 27. Olympic tennis competition was scheduled for July 29.
On the doubles front, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won the French and U.S. Opens in the women's doubles, while Serena and her sister won the Wimbledon and Olympics tournaments. Amazingly, the Bryans won the doubles title at both Wimbledon and the Olympics, just like the Williams sisters.
The tennis calendar from May to September had four Slams, on three different surfaces, in four months.
Was it not stressful to the players? Obviously! More than the physical strain, it was the mental strength that every player had to draw upon to ensure that they could adjust to the different surfaces and then come up with a winning strategy against their opponents in seven matches (which were best-of-five, except the initial parts of the Olympics) to win a Slam. Phew!
Put in the Davis Cup and Federation Cup, the season-ending championships and the ATP 1000 (or the equivalent in the WTA Tour) and the scenario is complete. One can understand the toils of Rafael Nadal in recent days, and the mind goes back to his comments about the schedule (he had complained about the toll on his body because of ATP's schedule).
Clearly he was not supported by enough players on the tour. Now it looks like only he has suffered because of the manic schedule. Will we see more players follow the path of Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick, who retired from tennis this year? Hopefully not.
One can talk about spacing out the Slams, but when and how? Currently, the time from September to the season-ending tournament in December is relatively clear, with players tending to recover from their exploits early in the season.
Maybe that time can be targeted. Is it time to venture out to other countries where one can play in a less hectic schedule? Maybe shores like China and India, where the weather will help the players to ply their skills in winter?
Another constraint is the number of surfaces the game is played on. The Grand Slams are played on hard courts, clay and grass. Why not play the fifth on an indoor carpet? Or a different surface?
Overall, the season does not look like it has enough time to accommodate an additional Slam. Three months between each Slam is a good average, but the last three Slams are in a close bunch, which makes it difficult to add in any other Slam.
The Olympics were the exception, but otherwise it is really impossible to have a fifth Slam. There surely is no room for any other Slam in tennis.
Do you agree?