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Quotable Quotes: Is Rafael Nadal right to criticize ITF and ATP scheduling?

Rafael Nadal’s outspoken criticism of the ITF and ATP continued this week as Rafa and Spain dusted off France 4-1 to reach the Davis Cup final. This time also specifically criticizing the scheduling of Davis Cup events immediately after slams:

“It is unacceptable that two big events like a Grand Slam and a Davis Cup semi-final are so close. An evolution in the calendar must be made or we might get to a place where we might not want to be. Evolution, revolution, same thing. They don’t want to change anything. You can’t always just think about the personal benefit. It seems as if those in charge aren’t aware. Chances of strike? We don’t want to get there. We want to play. But if it’s a fight about something that we think is fair, something would have to happen. Sometimes the only way to make things happen is to choose strong action.”

On one hand, it’s hard to disagree with him. That season is far too long is a fact. That it’s unbelievable that the top players have to play 6/7 best of 5 singles matches one week and then immediately travel to another country, possibly change surface and and then face the possibility of playing 3 more 5 setters is also a fact. And so Rafa finally standing up and taking control off-court as he does on the court is completely the right thing to do.

But another fact is that two years ago, the top twenty players - Rafa and Roger among many other notables - voted on whether the Davis Cup ties should be moved to the week after slams. The vast majority voted for it. As far as I know, they weren’t forced to sign at gunpoint, and so when Rafa is chucking blame at every professional tennis governing body and his dog for ‘thinking about the personal benefit’ ahead of the players’ welfare, it makes it hard to really take him seriously. They were given every opportunity to say ‘no’ and look to find a different solution, but for whatever reason, they didn’t.

Another thing Rafa has spoken about is the scheduling system and the amount of mandatory events each player is required to play every year. But once again, even with all the restrictions and requirements, the top players can still play a perfectly balanced schedule. Just look at Novak’s schedule pre-Davis Cup. It’s just that Rafa doesn’t choose to. For example if the schedule so demanding and draining, why did he play this year in the only non-mandatory masters event, Monté Carlo, which also happens to be played at the very beginning of the busiest and most grueling stretch of the season? There’s also the case of him (and Novak) flying down to Colombia right after their Indian Wells final to participate in a lucrative exhibition. Again, it’s hard to really take his pleas and criticism serious when he really doesn’t practice what he preaches.

But even so, let’s hope that this really is the beginning of change on both the ATP and hopefully the WTA too. What I really want to see changed is the transition from clay to grass, as it’s truly the most abysmal part of the calendar. Every year fans and journalists discuss the possibility of lengthening the grass season to give players more rest time between the two slams and the chance to spend longer on the least physically damaging surface there is, and every year absolutely nothing happens. There’s also the huge issue of surface homogenisation, and if I see one more traditionally fast hard court this year playing like there’s a thick layer of imaginary quick sand on it, I will break down.

Rafa is clearly standing up, sounding the klaxons and rallying the troops. We’ll soon see whether these are just empty words or if Rafa and the rest of the gang have the conviction to follow through and help usher in lasting constructive changes to professional tennis.

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2 Responses to Quotable Quotes: Is Rafael Nadal right to criticize ITF and ATP scheduling?

  1. puta soy perfecto (@piratesswoop) September 18, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I would marry this post if I could. I must be in church because you just preached it to the high heavens.

  2. Marbella September 20, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I don’t have a problem with the Davis Cup being played a week after Grand Slams. The Davis Cup is a team tournament, and therefore the best available team should play. If that doesn’t include top players who have made it all the way to the finals, then fine. Let the other players who have bowed out earlier step up. Top players who aren’t ready shouldn’t feel compelled to play and shouldn’t be criticised if they don’t. No one criticises top players in team sports for not competing when injured. In fact, it is a diservice to the team if they do. I found it unbelievable that Serbia allowed Djokovic to play in that shape, what does that say about the other players on the team? I know Nadal played well in his two matches, but I don’t understand why he felt like he had no option but to play.

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