ATP Tennis Schedule: Why It Is Such a Big Deal

Mithila SeshadrikumarContributor IISeptember 24, 2011

There are:

42 ATP 250 Tournaments
11 ATP 500 Tournaments
9 ATP 1000 Tournament
4 Grand slams
1 World Tour Finals
4 Davis Cup Tourneys (5 matches each)

Rules for Top 30 Players:

They must play all four Grand slams.
They must play 8 out of 9 Masters 1000 tournaments
They must play 4 ATP 500 Tournaments (if they want the points to count to ranking. Monte Carlo can be counted. One of them must be played after the US Open.)
They must play 2 ATP 250 Tournaments.

When qualified, they play a 19th  Tournament which is the World Tour Finals.
The Davis Cup can be used to substitute one of the ATP 500 under certain conditions.

Rules for remaining Players:

They must play all four Grand slams.
They must play 8 out of 9 Masters 1000 tournaments

Here’s what a common compilation of events for a top 30 player looks like.

Most of them skip either the Shanghai Open or Paris Masters because they are one of the 2 tournaments at the end of the year. Six of the other Masters tournaments are used as a form of preparation leading up to a Grand slam.

Indian Wells and Miami are the aberrations, but they are a high profile end to the hard court season that begins the previous year in August.

Wimbledon however, does not have any Masters played on grass and so either Queens (250 event) or Halle (also 250 event) substitutes as the transition/preparatory ground.

Doha is the other popular 250 event which is used to prepare for the Australian Open, since they too do not have an immediate preceding Masters 1000 event.

Most popular for 500 events are Rotterdam, Dubai, Barcelona, Hamburg, Beijing and Tokyo. Some have national obligations such as Nadal with Barcelona and Federer with Basel.

If the players are able to accumulate sufficient points, they will play in the WTF held in London. The year ends with either a Davis Cup final (the last event on the ATP Calendar) or exhibitions.

Seems rather innocuous doesn’t it? So why are the players making such a big deal out of it?

The problem in this case is not the number of events, but the scheduling. The tournaments are spread out through the year in such a way that barring any exhibitions and promotional events, the players in ATP get only 4 weeks off.

This has to be the shortest off-season in sports.

Both the clay-court and hard-court seasons are long and have led to one of the worst calendar seasons, producing a large number of retirements and injuries. Players lobbied and had the Davis Cup tournaments moved to one week after Grand slams rather than two.Yet they are now complaining again about the schedule of the Davis Cup.

This may be a case of players overestimating their energy reserves.

Federer, Nadal and Murray seem to have made it OK. They all, however, looked rather dead on their feet. Djokovic had to retire mid-game, allowing Argentina to defeat Serbia.

As of now, Federer has pulled out of Shanghai and thanks to the Davis Cup final, Nadal’s season only finishes at the end of November rather than the week before. He also appears to be the only one in the Davis Cup, who will also be playing in the World Tour finals the week before.

This schedule punishes those that make it deep into a tournament, and logic denotes that the top 30 are repeatedly enjoying success in every tournament they play.

Another issue is the length of the hard-court season.

Had this been the past and the players were still playing in the hard courts of the old days, this would not be such an issue. But in the name of commercialization, all courts have been slowed down in order to increase the bounce so that rallies can be longer.

Hard courts by nature are very punishing to the body if a player cannot keep their points short. Moving and sliding on the surface can lead to significant damage to joints and ligaments. But in today’s case, every court has been modified to encourage longer points.

It has also led to a phasing-out of serve and volley tactics. The net game has been reduced to a mere advantage while baseline rallies have become a must-have.

I have heard many fans state that players should take responsibility for their fitness because of playing styles. But I cannot fully support this statement because it is the different playing styles that make tennis fun to watch.

However, if players have unanimously expressed displeasure with the schedule it can only mean that the playing style is not part of the problem. Had there been fewer 250 events, as a fan I could make a few suggestions about how the schedule can be made better.

But, I can make an open suggestion at this juncture. Can we increase the speed of courts to a more manageable level so that points can be finished a little faster? It could go a long way in enabling a tennis player to have a longer career.

As for exhibitions, on one hand, while I would like players to focus on their tennis career, the fact that they are willing to expend themselves in charity work cannot be a bad thing. We can never do enough for those in need of help. So, for the sake of propriety I will not comment about the necessity for exhibition matches.

Meanwhile, let us hope that ATP will be a bit more charitable to our beloved players.

As a first time writer, I beseech you readers, to leave behind comments and suggestions to improve my articles. Thank you.


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