The last Masters 1000 of the season has started early this morning and what really surprises everyone is how slow the courts are compared to the previous years. I remember how happy the top players (except Rafael Nadal) were regarding the speed of the surface last year and I’m really questioning myself as to why they decided to make the courts so slow this year.
From what I was able to read today, the reason was to make the courts similar in speed to those of the O2 Arena, where the ATP World Tour Finals will be held. However, from a fan point of view, I find that decision rather enraging, as they are uniformizing the surfaces more and more as time goes by.
For instance, the Wimbledon grass has been slowed down a lot in the last few years, and just this year, even the US Open courts were slower. This gives a uniformity to the game that yes, encourages long rallies and such, but really kills the variety of the game which makes tennis even more interesting (the variety, that is).
Furthermore, having such slow hard courts endangers the health and safety of the players, as long rallies on hard courts in a repetitive manner such as it is now poses more risks of injuries, such as to the hips, knees, ankles and back.
The players have recently been complaining a lot about the length of the calendar, rightfully so. However, I’m starting to seriously wonder if the way the slowing down of fast surfaces is not more responsible for the feeling that the season is overly long than the actual fact that the season is, indeed, overly long. After all, with surfaces that all encourage long rallies, not only are we slowly seeing the death of the serve-and-volleyers, we are also seeing players fall to injuries more and more often.
It is really something that the ATP should start looking into seriously, if they don’t want their best assets’ careers ruined by injuries, and the fans deserting the sport due to lack of variety.
A matter to ponder.