Are the top players feeling the pressure of a gruelling ATP tour schedule?

Are the top players feeling the pressure of a gruelling ATP tour schedule?

Are the top players feeling the pressure of a gruelling ATP tour schedule?

Rafael Nadal has described the timing of Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the US Open as “difficult to understand” after the world number two looked set to play at the Flushing Meadows tournament. Having practised in New York for a week, Murray decided that his hip, the same one that he injured in the French Open semi-final, was too sore after a final hitting session, to allow his participation at this year’s tournament.

What seems to have irked Nadal is that if Murray had pulled out prior to the draw, Roger Federer would have moved up to become the number two seed, which would have meant that he and Nadal would not have been in the same half of the draw.

Murrays withdrawal because of an injured hip, which also seemingly hindered him at Wimbledon back in June, meant that the five most successful men of 2016 will not be present in New York.

  • An elbow injury has ended Novak Djokovic’s season
  • Stan Wawrinka will also miss the rest of the year following surgery on his knee
  • Kei Nishikori won’t play before January due to a torn tendon in his right wrist
  • Milos Raonic will undergo a procedure to remove fragments of bone from his wrist after the US Open

However, statistics from the ATP Tour reveals that there has been a 7-percent fall in the number of injuries this year compared to last.

Although it seems that some players are enjoying longer careers, it also appears that for the very select top 30 players, the group that usually contests semi-finals and finals, the drain of the four Grand Slams, eight mandatory Masters 1000 events and at least four other tournaments, is starting to take its toll. 

Last year, Murray competed in 87 matches, Nishikori 79 and Djokovic 74. But, this can be compared to John McEnroe’s 85 games when he recorded the best winning percentage in ATP history back in 1984, albeit in a less physically demanding era.

Injury experts will point to the rest and recovery weeks not always being available for the body to repair, highlighting that the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami are played back to back, as are the tournaments in Madrid and Rome in May. Then in August, competitions in Canada and Cincinnati also follow one another in quick succession.

If you were to find yourself among the world’s top eight players of the year, this season won’t finish until the ATP Finals in the third week of November, with the new season starting on New Year’s Day, allowing only six weeks (five for players involved in the Davis Cup final) to get rest, recovery and squeeze in a two or three-week training camp.

Obviously, commercial factors are important and have a strong influence in the scheduling, but most players will be suited when away from home to only have to move from one nearby city to another without too much downtime in between.

But what are the ATP doing about it?

Well, the Tour calendar is under review, with any changes set to take effect in 2019. This season, however, is very likely to remain the same length with all the scheduled major events keeping their current dates in the calendar.

There may also be a move towards having longer ATP events, similar to the 12-day tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, to allow players more rest days during events. The schedule will remain long and crowded though, which benefits the majority of the Tour members who rarely progress past the first couple of rounds.

It’s an interesting balance the ATP need to strike to ensure the Tour remains strong, but also that the best players are on show at the biggest tournaments.

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