Giving tennis more than a shot

The Woes Of A Quick Surface Change


All the players who took part in the later stages of the Olympic Games had to face, in a very short time span, the woes of going from grass to hard courts.


For instance, those who competed in the men’s doubles finals and Bronze medal match finished on Saturday, and had little to no time to rest, except perhaps the doubles specialists, who make their entrance today at the Rogers Cup.


Juan Martín del Potro was the first top player “casualty” yesterday, in Toronto; a few followed since (Photo: AP/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

Roger Federer, David Ferrer and Feliciano López all opted out of the Canadian Masters 1000 event, in order to rest after a longer than usual stretch (particularly in the cases of Ferrer and López, who haven’t stopped much in the last month).


Yesterday, Juan Martín del Potro, men’s singles Bronze medallist, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, men’s doubles Silver medallist, both lost their opening match, in straight sets.


For example, del Potro had arrived in Toronto late on Monday night, had one day to familiarise himself with the courts, lost, and also pulled out of the doubles to go rest a couple of days in Argentina before heading to Cincinnati.


Another victim of the surface change


Andy Murray was forced to withdraw from the tournament, today, due to a knee injury suffered yesterday during his match against Flavio Cipolla (Photo: AP/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim)


Today, another top player was victim of the overly quick surface change, as Andy Murray, Olympic champion and mixed doubles Silver medallist, announced his withdrawal from the tournament, due to a left knee injury he suffered during his opener, yesterday.


After his match, when he was interviewed on court, he mentioned that this was due to the quick surface change (the Scot only had 24 hours between arriving at Pearson Airport and his first match), but nothing to worry about.


However, the pain persisted and he made the decision, this morning, to withdraw from the tournament in order to rest his knee and be ready for Cincinnati, where he is the defending champion.


This doesn’t make everyone unhappy, as Murray’s withdrawal sends local Milos Raonic straight to quarter-finals, on a day that isn’t even sure to be completed due to the weather. As a matter of fact, at the moment of publishing this, the day session had just been cancelled in Toronto.


The inconvenient of shortening the calendar

At the end of last year, when the ATP World Tour announced its 2012 calendar, such a turn of events was very easy to predict, as they did everything to shorten the season by two weeks, right during an Olympic year, giving the players absolutely no rest between London and the Rogers Cup, and no time to really prepare for the last stretch of the season, on hard courts.


It’s the reverse of what happened in 2008, when the Olympics started mere days after the Cincinnati Masters 1000. Sure, it was the same surface, but at nearly the other extreme of the world in terms of time zones.


They had four years to prepare themselves for 2012 and its consequences, and instead of giving the players a week’s extra rest between the Olympics and the back-to-back North American Masters 1000, they left them at their usual dates, knowing fully well that Toronto would be the great loser of the situation.


Since last week, we see those consequences: many pull-outs prior to the tournament, early losses by top players, and another withdrawal today for an injury caused by the surface change without preparation.


On top of it, the ATP cut the week’s rest between the Paris Masters 1000 and the World Tour Finals, which made (and still makes) many of us predict a top player exodus prior to the last major event of the season, especially for those who will have already qualified for the final showdown.


Rafael Nadal has been one of the most virulent advocates of a shortage of the calendar and a longer off-season (Photo (archive, Indian Wells): Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has been one of the strongest and most virulent advocates for a shortage of the ATP calendar and a longer off-season. During this Olympic year, we see that listening to those who pushed for such a thing to happen was not the brightest of ideas, especially not this year.


Sadly, it’s a great Masters 1000 event that pays the high price of it, as it sees itself slowly but surely deprived of all its stars, and the ATP stars, including Nadal himself (who announced today that he was pulling out of Cincinnati due to the knee injury that made him miss both the Olympics and the Rogers Cup already), fall like flies, victim of injuries.


In three years, Wimbledon will be held a week later. Will it have any more disastrous consequences on the calendar?


And what about in 2016, with the Rio Olympics?


The ATP really should start thinking about it, right now, just like they really should reconsider what will happen in 2013. For the moment, it really is not funny, especially when a mandatory event is seen deprived of most of its stars, victim of the circumstances.


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