Hard courts are a vicious surface. Let's not sugar-coat it. In today's game, they dominate the calendar. For 7-8 months out of the year, they are the primary surface for competition, but for all of the wrong reasons.
Back in the mid-eighties, hard courts were being introduced more often in tennis. Before that, clay and grass made up the majority of the surfaces with some carpet thrown in as well. At the time, hard courts were almost a commodity, but all of that changed when organizers realized that they were cheaper to build, and cheaper to maintain than either grass or clay.
And thus the calendar began to shift. By the time the 90's rolled around, hardcourts were pulling even with all of the other surfaces and by the end of the decade, they made up a good portion of the entire schedule and since then another decade has passed, with the concrete stranglehold even tighter on the calendar.
The scary thing is that only four months into the season, and we have seen a rash of injuries on both the men and women's tour. If anyone wonders why players only last until their latter twenties, you could probably point towards hardcourts as a catalyst for it. I'm not saying it's the only reason, but it's a big one.
It's no wonder that most players are laying in their houses recovering all of the time. The pounding on your joints and body take their toll.
The ATP wants players to take part in all of the major tournaments, but by the end of the spring hard court season, most players are too worn out, and hurt to start the clay season, even if it's easier on the legs.
Personally, I'd like to see the schedule altered to reduce the hardcourt schedule by 1/3 and add more grass tournaments to the schedule. It would drastically alter the schedule, but it would be for the better.
It might also be nice to see the Shanghai Master's alternate every year from grass, to clay, to hard court. Try repeating on a different surface every year.
If the schedule was changed, and even lessened slightly, we might see players competing at a high level into their early thirties. If nothing else, it's worth a shot.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!