Is the Tennis Season really too long? - UBITENNIS
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Is the Tennis Season really too long?

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The length of the tennis season is one that has always set the standard for debate and tension between the ATP Board and some players. Yet are just causes for concern, and what can be done if that is the case?

The ATP season does admittedly run for a large proportion of the year, and certainly compared to other sports it can seem long, with its eleven month length. January-November is a seriously long time to be pushing oneself to athletic extremes, and travelling thousands of miles across the globe to play in tournaments.

There are key differences with other sports. The Premier League in football finishes in May and does not resume competitive fixtures until mid-August.Other major European leagues enjoy an additional winter break in December/January. Players can suffer injuries, but even then, the players are almost exclusively on fixed contracts. They get paid either way.  Match times are fixed at ninety minutes (or maximum one-hundred and twenty). Squad size and the ability to rotate means a player can rest be rested to avoid burnout.

Tennis players are afforded none of these luxuries. Tennis is by nature, an extremely individualistic sport. Even doubles demands a massive amount from the individual. There can be no free-loaders. Tennis players are also at the mercy of their own bodies. Their ability to earn a living relies on staying fit, and winning matches. An injured player cannot play, therefore cannot earn. Some, earn sponsorship from their governments if they are lucky, others by private enterprises if they are deemed a young starlet. A select few at the very top of the game earn significant sponsorships from racket or kit manufacturers.

Beyond their personal reasons, the players also have ATP obligations, where top 30 players must play at least eighteen tournaments, including the Grand Slams eight out of nine Masters, and a minimum of 250s and 500s ( the Masters event that players are exempt from is either Rome or Madrid, as these are back-to-back tournaments). All other players have similar requirements ranking-entry permitting. In reality these rules are only lightly enforced, as players can easily cite an injury or illness to avoid playing specific events.

Nadal has often called for the season to be shorter

Nadal has often called for the season to be shorter

In examining those who have criticised the Tour length, there is a common denominator. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick. These are all players who have a some stage of their careers enjoyed a dominance that saw/sees them play many weeks, and go deep into most events they enter. Inevitably exhaustion can and does play a role. These are players whose career earnings and sponsorship deals are such that they are financially secure. There has been some movement, with an extra week added between the French Open and Wimbledon to facilitate rest and acclimatisation for the deep-runners at Roland Garros. This has not led to fewer tournaments though. Stuttgart has swapped from clay to grass, so it is a reorganisation rather than a true shortening of the season.  In addition, many top players play lucrative exhibition during the off-season. Nadal, perhaps the most vocal to season length played an exhibition with David Nalbandian in November 2013.

On the other side of the argument are all the other players, who may or may not be secure. These are players who help make the numbers of events, the players who you see play, and occasionally beat the big names in Grand Slams. Michael Russell is now thirty-seven, and this year finally retired. Russell spent years flitting around the Top 100. He first broke it in June 2001, and left it for the last time in June 2014. His career earnings totalled less than two and a half million dollars. A small reward for more than thirteen years grafting on the tour after you consider how much must have gone into travel costs and other expenses. When you consider the gaudy earnings of players who at some points Russell was ranked less than thirty places from, it certainly seems harsh.

Players like Russell rely on the almost permanent availability of tournaments to compete in. If there is not an ATP event, there is a Challenger event. Even for players ranked inside the Top 100 for a consistent period rely on a steady stream of revenue. Tournament availability offers them that. The rest is up to them.

If the length of the season were cut, it might suit the top players but could have a catastrophic effect lower down the tennis pyramid. It is not enough to just cut ATP events and keep the number of Challengers the same. Players in the fifty-one hundred ranking area might drop down to play because they can or need to, it already happens, though not to an unreasonable extent. This would happen at an increasing rate if the number of tournaments were cut. This is, with all due respect, not where they should be competing. They should be competing in ATP events, playing in events that reflect their rankings. But there is a more ominous potential consequence. More top players at Challengers means less draw-space for the players who traditionally fill them. The effect this could have is that players are forced to either play Futures, where the earning potential just is not strong enough for some. Briton Jamie Baker, a veteran of Wimbledon and Australian Open main draws, announced his retirement a few years ago due to what he felt was a lack of financial viability. And he isn’t the only one. it is unlikely that the ATP would significantly add to the prize money at lower levels to compensate. If anything, fewer tournaments on the schedule would mean less exposure for the sport, and less income from sponsors and TV rights deals. They may even be forced to reduce tournament prize money to make up the shortfall, who knows?

But the ultimate factor is better-quality players dropping down. Because this would likely lead to many more premature retirements like that of Baker, forced into pursuing other careers. The depth of professional tennis would be drastically cut.

That is not to say that there is no middle ground, and it is fairly obvious where that middle ground is. Reducing the number of mandatory tournaments would be a good start. Cutting the Davis Cup in a Olympic year would also reduce the strain that extra tournament puts on players. Keep qualification for the Olympic tournament linked to Davis Cup participation to protect Davis Cup integrity. In potential years without Davis Cup, there could be some discussion with players whether simply keeping traditional Davis Cup weeks empty, or alternatively moving the schedule forward to facilitate an earlier end to the season would be more beneficial.

This is an issue that for whatever reason has not had much movement in recent years. Maybe this is because there simply is no need to change too much.

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Daria Kasatkina And Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Lead Calls For VAR In Tennis

There have been calls for VAR to be introduced into the sport.

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Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina have called for VAR to be implemented in tennis.

The calls have came after Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik in Dubai.

As Bublik lead 6-5 in the final set, Rublev shouted in the face of an umpire allegedly swearing in Russian which was picked up by one of the officials.

This saw Rublev be disqualified from the event with Bublik reaching the final in Dubai.

However as a result of the incident players have called for a VAR review system with the video showing inconclusive proof of whether Rublev did swear in Russian.

Leading the calls for such innovation are Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the duo called for VAR to be introduced on twitter, “So you can just disqualify a player, take away all his points and money, without even checking the video? What a joke, yet another confirmation that we need VAR in tennis and an electronic appeal system in all tournaments,” Kasatkina said on social media.

VAR has been implemented in football and also a similar system in rugby with mixed results.

It’s clear though that more technology would help umpires identify whether a grounds for disqualification would be necessary.

So far VAR has been trialled at the Next Gen Finals and the Nitto ATP Finals.

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Casper Ruud Overcomes ‘Tough Start’ To Set De Minaur Final In Acapulco

Casper Ruud is into his first ATP 500 final after defeating Holger Rune in three sets.

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Casper Ruud is into his second consecutive final in Mexico after defeating Holger Rune 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Acapulco.

The Norwegian had to overcome an electric start from Rune to prevail in 2 hours and 24 minutes.

It was a clinical performance from Ruud who is now into his second consecutive final in Mexico after reaching the final in Los Cabos last week.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted it was a tough start but he’s pleased to be in another final, “It was a tough start,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game. I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second.

“I didn’t really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn’t feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.

“Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

Ruud is now into his first ATP 500 final in Acapulco where he will face defending champion Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Jack Draper after the Brit retired at 4-0 down in the deciding set.

Heading into Saturday’s final, De Minaur leads the head-to-head 1-0 although that was in a completely different scoring format in the Next Gen Finals.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Ruud will return to the world’s top ten.

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Andrey Rublev Disqualified In Dramatic Dubai Semi-Final

Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final in Dubai.

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Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik after being accused of swearing in Russian.

The event took place in Dubai where Rublev had more than enough opportunities to win the match having been 4-2 40-0 up in the deciding set.

However Bublik came back into the match as he caught up with Rublev in what was turning into a fascinating contest.

The score was at 6-5 Bublik when Rublev’s frustrations boiled over when he allegedly told the official at the side of the court that he was a ‘f****** moron’ in Russian.

One of the officials on the sidelines at the side of the court reported the incident and the supervisor ruled that Rublev should be defaulted.

The incident below means that Rublev will now lose all his ranking points and prize money, resulting in Rublev exiting the world’s top five.

An ending that didn’t warrant the dramatic contest and after the match Bublik agreed that the consequences, “I highly doubt Andrey said something crazy,” Bublik was quoted by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s not this kind of guy. But I guess that’s the rules. That’s what they did, they just follow the procedure.”

Bublik will hope for a smoother finish to the final when he takes on Ugo Humbert for the title.

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