Steve berates the long tennis season for the umpteenth time.
What does it say about a sport when its two most important names, the two names and bodies that have been asked to resurrect tennis with their rivalry, are physically broken by the end of a single season? Like Roddick says, the punishing nature of the schedule, its length, and its travel requirements are eternal topics of discussion. But its excessiveness has never been displayed as plainly as it was in Shanghai. Federer is participating in a doubles exhibition this coming week, but for the most part he and Nadal limited themselves to the ATP’s lineup of mandatory tournaments in 2008. That includes the final two post-U.S. Open Masters events, in Madrid and Paris. Fairly or not, these remain the culprits in this story: Nadal and Federer injured themselves while trying to stay in shape to play them. Not to win them—I doubt they cared much about that—just to play them. Some relief may come to the schedule in 2009, but Roddick, who reiterated his thoughts about it last week, remains correct: The season will still end in November, and it will still include two mandatory post-Open Masters events (this time in Paris and China), as well as the Masters Cup. And it will, in all likelihood, continue to hurt the sport’s most valuable property, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer.
When will the powers that be get it? The worldwide financial crisis will likely affect tournament sponsorships for 2009. Will that spearhead the beginning of serious talks for a shorter, not just a reorganized, calendar?