Nadal and Blake blast gruelling calendar


Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:01

The worst kept secret in professional tennis came into focus this week when both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer withdrew from their quarter-final matches in Paris, with fellow pros agreeing that the current calendar is simply too long.

Nadal limped out of his match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury after losing the first set 6-1, just minutes after Federer withdrew from his last-eight encounter with James Blake.

The world No.2 had been suffering with a stiff back since arriving in Paris and pulled out mainly a precaution with just a week to go before the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.

Nevertheless, Nadal, who has played over 90 matches already this season, says that playing nearly all year round is too much, especially for the top guys.

The ATP has to think about what’s happening in the end of the season” – Nadal

With this calendar it’s very difficult to play a lot of years in a row, the world No.1 said. The ATP and everybody have to think about these things what’s happening in the end of the season. The speed of the ball is increasing and it’s tougher for the body.

Roger and I try our best in every tournament. But when you can no more, you can’t no more. You know how tough is the season and how long, a lot of the matches on our shoulders.

Nadal’s comments are echoed by Blake, who might have profited from Federer’s withdrawal had he been able to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and qualify for the Masters Cup himself.

Blake, who lost to the Frenchman 6-4 6-3, said that the ATP’s revised schedule for 2009, with more mandatory events for the top players in exchange for increased prize money, gives the game’s elite a rough ride.

“I think we’re going to have to deal with eight mandatory events,” he said of the re-branded ‘Masters 1000’ tournaments. “It’s unfortunate, because I don’t think that’s good for the players.

“In this tournament, you see the top two players in the world getting injured – it couldn’t be a clearer signal that the year is too long.

The former member of the ATP Player Council said that next year’s workload on court will be huge.

“To make us have eight mandatory events, four mandatory Grand Slams, and four out of 11 mandatory 500s, it just seems mind boggling to me as a player.”

“You’re going to have too many careers shortened, and that’s cheating the fans” – Blake

“There’s too many events, too many times that we have to be playing,” said the 28-year-old. “Look at baseball players, football players, basketball players, they have a real off-season – that’s why they’re playing into their 40s and we’re retiring at 30.

‘It’s just tough on our body. When the top two players can’t make it through a season at 22 and 27 years old – the peak of their health – it’s saying something about the season.’

The American levelled his criticism at people outside of the game making decisions without fully understanding what they are asking of the players.

“I wish the players could have decided that a lot more. I think the council is going to have more power soon now that Roger, Rafa, and Novak (Djokovic) are on it.

“I hope people start listening to the players, otherwise you’re going to have too many careers shortened, and that’s cheating the fans.”


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.