Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ATP Scheduling: Easy to Dislike but Hard to Fix

As the ATP tour limps into Shanghai this week, many familiar faces have opted (not necessarily by choice, mind you) to limp home.

Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Roddick are the latest top-ten casualties to run out of steam in the final leg of the ATP calendar. Roddick's post-retirement comments about the unforgiving length of the ATP's schedule mirror almost exactly what Rafael Nadal was saying as he began his injury-forced sabbatical in early June.

It's too freaking long.

If you spend your time breathing the rarefied air of the top-20, I see your point. It is ridiculously long. But the top-20 perspective isn't the only point that should be considered here. There are the tournament directors, one of whom is Novak Djokovic now (he is also a representative on the ATP's player council), whose voice also needs to be heard.

"The current leadership of the ATP is willing to do a lot of things for the players...we can't expect just to shorten the season by a month or two because that would hurt certain tournaments."

Djokovic has a point here. Obviously, since his family has bought the rights to the ATP Belgrade event, he's got one Adidas-clad foot on either side of the fence.

Along those same lines, the fact that the ATP and WTA are attempting to embrace the fan base in Asia this autumn is laudable, but with the players grievances and the sparsely attended events in both Beijing and Shanghai (I guess the recession is in China as well), it's hard to tell if these three weeks are damaging the game or growing the game over there.

And there is also the perspective of the lower ranked players, who are interested in moving up the ladder so they can start the next season on a roll, and those players who were injured during the meat of the season who are looking to get in shape and earn much needed rankings points.

And god forbid we should mention the players who are trying to make enough money to pay the rent. Those tried and true battlers who show up to play qualifiers and fight tooth and nail to earn a living on the tour. Those players deserve a say in this matter as well.

Granted, the issues of the tour will always be slanted to the top-20 types, but shouldn't these lower-ranked and lesser-known souls be given a voice?

As you've probably already gathered this isn't a simple issue and there is no simple solution. It will take work, understanding, and communication.

"We have to make a compromise," said Djokovic. "The ATP is an association of tournaments and players together. The bottom line is that you don't want to have injured players. The schedule, in my opinion, is too long, but we have to go step by step to solve it."

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