Last Tuesday, a tennis player went to the ground while training in Melbourne Park.
He suffered a coughing fit, a consequence of the particles flying over Australia: two weeks ago the country, the continent, was burning.
Then another asked for medical assistance. He felt he was drowning.
The matter overwhelmed the organizers of the Australian Open, which starts tomorrow in Melbourne. Is there a risk to the health of tennis players? Should your celebration be rethought? Or postpone?
The experts gave him a thousand spins. They decided nothing.
It’s a game.
The press went to ask the tennis players yesterday, to Nadal or Federer, and everyone responded to the pair. If the organizers have decided that it is played, it is because they have it clear.
“I doubt that this committee is intended to harm the health of competitors,” he said Rafael Nadal–. So I came here to play.”
In reality, tennis players are concerned about other issues, others of longer haul. For example, your own future. Is the current timetable sustainable?
The question is legitimate.
Until now, the tennis players rested much of November – except for the eight qualifiers for the Masters Cup – and all December. And they entered the year at half gas, with some exhibition tournaments, minors, before facing the Australian Open.
It’s not like that anymore.
The new calendar is to blame. Longer, more demanding. The revamped Davis Cup (November) and the new ATP Cup (January), two country tournaments, have intensified the agenda to unsuspected limits. Where before there was rest, a ride on the sailboat and a few days in the sun, there is now a weave, points to defend and a flag to be waved.
And the tennis players complain.
Last Sunday, as soon as the ATP Cup was over –Serbia defeated Spain In the final– Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic appeared on stage.
“In recent weeks, I have really enjoyed the competitions and competing with my teammates. I can’t ignore that. The ATP Cup is a great competition, but I can’t help but consider that two World Cups (in the space of two months) are somewhat inadequate. We must find a way to resolve this situation and reach an agreement between the Itf (Davis Cup) and the Atp (ATP Cup),” Nadal said.
“The tennis world needs a single World Cup super cup, or whatever you want to call it,” Djokovic added. I know it’s not going to happen next year. But if both sides agree, and if they hurry, we could have it by 2022.”
The warning is important. It comes from the number 1 and the number 2 of the circuit. The third, Federer, he had already said his own way: he did not attend the Davis and he did not attend the ATP Cup. He preferred to spend those weeks tending to his four creatures.
Debate has its logic.
The intensity of the calendar has claimed a range of victims in these weeks. Alex de Minaur, Kei Nishikori, Andy Murray And Juan Martin del Potro will miss the Australian Open. All four are injured.
The first, De Minaur, hurt his abs, precisely during the ATP Cup. The other three have been dragging on problems from a long time ago. Nishikori and Murray accelerated their recovery processes. They both did so with the intention of accessing at least Davis Cup. They were wrong.
“It’s clear to me. Celebrating the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup in the space of a month and a half seems absurd to me. They’re two too similar competitions,” he says Tomás Carbonell.
He is one of the coaches of Roberto Bautista. He is also an analyst and vice president of the Spanish Tennis Federation.
–With them, you dilute the product, load the tennis players’ calendar and confuse the amateur. There should be only one event, such as the Ryder Cup golf or the football World Cup. In this situation, the big tennis players might refuse to play. Federer has already turned his back on them and it’s normal: he’s almost forty years old. But Nadal and Djokovic are very far into their thirties…
Jordi Arrese share that vision. It was silver in Barcelona’92 and today he’s a television commentator in Eurotransgaming.org.
“I think they’ve rushed to launch this new ATP Cup. Think there were already problems with the reform of the Davis. The tennis players had long cried for a thinning of the calendar. And now, opening a new tournament is too much. One is contested too late in the year, and the other arrives too soon. So they can’t be at their highest level. The logical thing would be for the Davis to be held on the dates of the Laver Cup.
“It’s an exhibition tournament. It is played at the end of September. The players would not finish so late in the year and would have time to do some pre-season before opening the following year.
–And would you do without the ATP Cup?
“It’s just, where he falls, he’s not going to do well. He’s too early. It is better for players to have two or three weeks in January to go on the road, before reaching the Australian Open. As things stand right now, I find it hard to imagine tennis players at their highest level in Melbourne.
“But suppressing the Laver Cup isn’t going to be that simple…,” he says.
“Sure, that’s where Roger Federer comes in, one of the great stakeholders. And everyone’s going to stand up for theirs.
Xavier Budó, coach Paula Badosa, present in the large box of the Australian Open, has that same reading.
“Honestly, I think the current schedule is excessive for the players. It doesn’t make any sense for the Davis to go one way and the ATP Cup on the other.
–And what should be done?
–The most logical and coherent thing would be a single World Cup by country. The double competition extends the season and creates confusion in the amateur. And it takes away value from both events.
Tomás Carbonell interprets that the solution will not be simple. He understands that the Davis Cup generates a lot of money for the national federations and the ATP Cup, for the players. So, in their own way, each wins with both events.
–For the federations, Davis Cup money is vital. And for tennis, too. After all, federations reinvest their money in the players of the future. They set up schools, hire coaches and create structures.
–And in the case of the ATP Cup?
–For some players, it’s fast money.
The ATP Cup has split 13.5 million euros among the players. In total, 24 countries had come.