x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

'Crazy' schedule taking a toll on tennis players at US Open

The record rate of retirements at Flushing Meadows should give the authorities a wake-up call.

Rafael Nadal cramped up addressing the media after his match against David Nalbandian.
Rafael Nadal cramped up addressing the media after his match against David Nalbandian.
Before Saturday, Wimbledon 2008, a tournament best remembered for the incredible final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, also enjoyed a bit of notoriety.
It held the record for most retirements from a grand slam in the open era, with 12 players failing to complete their singles matches because of injuries.
The current US Open has broken that record in the first six days, with 14 retirements.
If you add walkovers (when a player withdraws before a match begins) to that list, the numbers goes up to 18.
The list of casualties has reignited the debate over the length of the tennis season, which lasts more than 11 months for the men and is a month shorter for the women. "The schedule is crazy," Nadal, who suffered cramp after his third-round match on Sunday, had said before the start of the US Open.
"It's crazy now, it was crazy before and it will still be crazy next year. You can't make your body go to the limit for the whole year. It's just not possible."
To counter Nadal's criticism, mandarins of tennis may point to statistics from the past. Nadal played 76 matches in 2010, while Jim Courier played 88 in 1992, Ivan Lendl 87 in 1989 and John McEnroe 86 in 1984.
However, according to analysts, the game has become a lot more physically demanding. Nadal said "the speed of the ball" had made the game a lot more gruelling and "because of it, we will all have to retire when we are young".
Nadal's argument are backed up by statistics. This year, seven men have served faster than 225kph according to data available with IDS. In 2001, only three players recorded serves quicker than 210kph; two decades ago, only one player served faster than 130mph. The speed of the ground strokes and return of serves has also increased and Nadal's concerns are shared by most of his contemporaries and peers.
"If I were king for a day, I'd end the season after the [US] Open," said Courier. "You'd rather change the schedule and . see iconic players stick around longer. "
"Right now, it's much too much tennis, physically and mentally too much," said Pete Sampras. "Something's got to give."
But as Andy Murray tweeted on Saturday: "Is the 18th pull out in the US Open telling the tennis authorities anything??"
arizvi@thenational.ae