While seeing players battle for crucial ranking points at the end of the year creates excitement to an extent, it would be beneficial for players and the game as a whole if the ATP World Tour Finals were moved to an earlier time in the year.
The year ending tournament, which is competed for in London by the top eight ATP ranked players, is scheduled to begin on Sunday November 9, a whole two months after the end of the US Open, by which time most players are likely to have played in at least three more tournaments in the indoor season, including Masters Series events in Shanghai and Paris.
For the sake of conditioning, it could be more worthwhile to play the Tour Finals towards the end of September, before fans have virtually switched off from the sport, thus sparing players running themselves into the ground before the year-ending event.
The tournament does not seem to be given the same level of promotion as Grand Slams, even though it has been said that some players see it as the fifth major, but there is almost a feeling of apathy at the 02 Arena, particularly when the game’s top players pull out through injury.
There have been 10 withdrawals from the tournament in the last 10 years, including the years where it was still named the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, and there could be a correlation between those injuries and fatigue at the end of a long year.
There are of course occasions where players are missing from the tournament due to long term injury problems, such as Juan Martin del Potro’s wrist injury problems this year and in 2010, but Britain’s Andy Murray may not have had to pull out of the tournament last year had it been played earlier.
The two-time Grand Slam winner was forced to miss the entire indoor season last year after having back surgery, and he could have played in front of his home crowd had it been scheduled earlier, and he would not have had to have lost so many ranking points at the back end of the year.
When should it be played?
If the ATP want to strike while the iron is hot, then the tournament could start three weeks after the end of the US Open, when worldwide interest will not have wavered and players can simply get it out of the way earlier.
It is important that fans in Asia have the chance to see the world’s top players compete however, and it would not be fair to dispense with tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai, particularly as they generate income.
But perhaps the ATP could look into playing the indoor season after the Australian Open, as there is a gap between the Melbourne Grand Slam and the first hard court Masters Series event in Indian Wells in March.
Seeing Murray adding the Shenzhen Open to his schedule to frantically add ranking points to boost him into the top eight shows that these tournaments are important, but it is not the time of year where fans would want to see players using up their energy to play for ranking points alone.
Nothing to play for
The likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the world’s top three, who have already qualified, are now focusing their efforts on aiming to win further titles before completing their year.
This time could be much better served resting, as they have nothing else to play for, giving them a longer break before moving back into training ahead of preparations for the 2015 Australian Open next January, and the same could be said for the Davis Cup Final, which is also scheduled for November.
The top eight players should not have to be victims of their own success, as at this moment in time they are only realistically given a few weeks off before they return to high intensity training ahead of the new season, and does not give them the rest and recuperation time that their efforts deserve in an era where fitness is more crucial than ever.
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