Has any top player in the history of tennis ever complained of the pro tennis season being too short? Perhaps Yevgeny Kafelnikov or Wayne Ferreira or even Nikolay Davydenko have shared such sentiment, but needless to say the few who do are in the minority. I bring it up because in what has become an annual end-of-the-year tradition, the top players in the game again are arguing that their season is just too long.
In interviews yesterday at the Shanghai Masters both top seed Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick took swipes at the length of the tennis calendar.
Said Nadal: “It’s impossible to play first of January and finish fifth of December. … It’s impossible to be here playing like what I did the last five years, playing a lot of matches and being all the time 100 percent without problems.”
Said Roddick: “It’s ridiculous to think that you have a professional sport that doesn’t have a legitimate offseason to rest, get healthy and then train. I just feel, sooner or later, that common sense has to prevail.”
And to a point they are right. The season is too long, too fractured and it really is a mess. But that’s the tennis season that’s been in place for years if not decades. And the players should know that, they should know because it’s the profession they have chosen. If they don’t agree with it find another line of work. Sorry, because it’s not likely to be changing anytime soon (read: there’s no fair way to eliminate tournaments!).
In a day when many are struggling with economic hardship, I don’t think millionaire athletes in any sport let alone tennis should be complaining about how they work way too much.
Nadal has played a total 77 matches (66 singles, 11 doubles) this year and for it he pocketed nearly $4.9 million. That’s $4.9 million dollars for 77 days of work which is just over $63,000 per day worked. (!!!)
Roddick has played 72 total matches (62 singles, 10 doubles) in 2009 accumulating almost $2.3 million. Again, $2.3 million for 72 days of work or about $32,000 per each day he worked.
I don’t know what the average wage of a worker globally is but here in the U.S. it’s right around $40,000/year. That’s $40,000 for working 240 days of the year or $166 a day.
Now who should be complaining? (And note I didn’t even include off-court endorsement or appearance fees.)
I’m guessing most average Americans would love to have Andy and Rafa’s issues with scheduling, travel, injuries, practice and time away from friends and family.
And let’s be honest, what worker – any worker anywhere for that matter – hasn’t complained that their “hours are too long” or the “work schedule is too tough” or they “need more time off to recharge”. We all do at some point, no matter what the profession. We all complain, or at least many of do. The difference is nearly all of us are not paid handsomely for playing game, like Rafa and Andy do.
And spare me, I know I’m being extreme and I’m not really picking on Andy and Rafa because I’m sure just about all the other top tennis players feel the exact same way (really, who wouldn’t want to work less and get paid the same if not more??), but in my mind, if they have concerns over the schedule this is not the time to air them in public. Have those discussion behind closed doors! I’m sure there are many people around the world who will not be shedding a tear these days for the millionaire players who are whining that they are being forced to play too much tennis. If anything they should be grateful for having such an opportunity.
And speaking of force, just who is making them play? I ask this same question every year: What’s the penalty for not playing? Are they kicked off the tour? Are they banished from tennis? Do they lose ranking points? The answer is no. More often than not, what they lose is…MONEY! That’s it. Cash.
And if Rafa and Roddick are so in arms over the scheduling why did they both play in a non-mandatory event last week? Did Roddick have to play in China? Did someone put a gun to Rafa’s head and made him get on a plane to Beijing? Of course not. They played for the love of game and they played to pick up a hefty appearance paycheck.
Had the appearance fees not been there would they still have played? No. And to be clear, that’s not their fault, that’s been the system for years so I don’t have an issue with them making/taking their money, but I do take offense when they start complaining about having to play too much.
Again, I agree with the players that the season could be improved but there’s really no easy way to make it better. So really it’s up to them to work with the calendar that’s before them.
Injuries will happen, there’s no schedule that will prevent them from happening, but top players need to be more understanding of the schedule and how much their bodies can take, rather than keeping an eye on just much they can make.
I always felt Roddick kept a smart schedule, also Roger Federer who’s forgoing what probably would have been a very lucrative Asian swing to rest up for the European indoors. Andre Agassi use to play sparingly and while I bash the Williams sisters a lot, few can ever fault them for overplaying! So balance can be had, but will the players be able to wave off temptation to have it?
As for the tennis, tomorrow in Shanghai we get our first real big test for a top player when Roddick gets Stan Wawrinka. I picked Wawrinka to pull the upset and that said, I really don’t know how he will do it. Maybe Andy will be in a foul mood after his schedule rant and decide to pack the bags and get the H out of Asia but I doubt it. It’s a long shot but I’ll keep with my Swiss selection.
Also tomorrow Tomas Berdych plays the hot Marin Cilic. The Croat needs to be careful in that one. My man Gael Monfils meets his countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu and big John Isner opens the Center Court play against Lleyton Hewitt in a worthy battle. Hewitt’s long been one of the better returners and we know how well Isner can bring the heat.
The other big guy, Ivo Karlovic, who I thought was going to beat Nadal, not surprisingly got dropped by James Blake. Now Blake gets another shot at Rafa tomorrow (Wednesday).
There was also some talk of Ernests Gulbis making a statement this week against Novak Djokovic in the second round. No luck for the Latvian as Ernests went Ernests and falling in his opener to Fabio Fognini in straight sets. Will Gulbis ever make it? The odds are against him.
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