It seems like just yesterday Roger Federer was winning the 2010 Year-End Championships over Rafael Nadal in the latest chapter of their rivalry (with much more to come). Now, both are already back on-court and Federer has already won 1 title in 2011! This just goes to show how short the tennis off-season really is and how much more incredible it makes the feats of both Federer and Nadal.
Can you see another sport in which people have to play 11-12 months of the year competitively, week-in-week-out, and still have to produce top-notch results? Just about every professional sport requires intense training all year around, including in the off-season, where teams and individuals make changes to their games. Usually, it leads to refreshing competitions the following season, and it also allows for more build-up for fans as well. So that leads to the question: When do tennis players get to fine-tune their games for the “next season”? A mere 4-6 weeks during primetime holiday season (December) is not enough, and if they end up tweaking their games in the middle of the season, the only way to test the changes is during valuable match-play (where there is lots of money and ranking points at stake). Plus, fans can barely catch their breath one season before the next one starts in full swing. For a die-hard tennis fan, it is very exciting – but it can also get slightly tiring.
So, here is my proposal for the ATP/WTA/ITF. Give players a 10-12 week off-season and overlap more tournaments in that time. Most of the Masters tournaments only have draws of 64 to 128 players, and anybody not in these top ranks doesn’t even have a chance of playing. So, why not allow smaller tournaments to be held at the same time for these other players? It also allows the top-ranked players to focus on the major tournaments (thus reducing wear and tear) and gives those not in the top echelons of tennis the chance to rise through the ranks. In the 10-12 weeks off, players have a legitimate amount of time to rest, as well as make changes to their games. Moreover, fans get some time to reflect on the past season and anticipate even more about the upcoming one.
Maybe in the far future these changes will be in effect. Until then, we’ll have to deal with our short off-season - if you can even call it that. With that said, the Australian Open is only six days away! Predictions anyone?