After years of campaigning, players rejoice as the ATP chief Adam Helfant announced plans to extend the off-season to eight weeks
At the US Open on Wednesday, ATP executive chairman and president, Adam Helfant announced the ATP World Tour is to consider increasing its off-season from five weeks to seven or eight by 2012.
This was music to the ears of the world’s top players, who’ve been complaining for years about the length of the packed schedule, which currently consists of 62 events in 32 countries, running from January until the end of November.
World number three, Novak Djokovic, elected to the ATP Players Council in 2008, spoke out passionately regarding the intensity of the tour, before meeting with ATP officials in Australia at the start of the year:
"Listening to the top players, you get the fair point...(the season) is just too long. And definitely, having five weeks, four weeks...before the start of the new season is so, so little. We have to have at least two months and that's the minimum.”
Djokovic was backed by Spanish world number eight, Fernando Verdasco, who allowed himself 10 days' rest before taking a two-week training camp in Las Vegas to prepare for the 2010 season.
"I think every player would like to have at least two weeks off and then have more time also to prepare, you know. Not to be in a rush," said the 26-year-old.
Crucially, fellow Spaniard and world number one, Rafael Nadal, blamed his ten-week break last year with knee tendonitis on the tour schedule. And, as a result, has missed tournaments and Davis Cup ties to rest, a nightmare for tournament directors and advertisers alike.
Last month, former world number one, Andy Roddick was also characteristically direct when asked his opinion on the length of the schedule, "I don't think it's a matter of opinion. When you ask someone, 'Is the schedule too long?' The schedule is too long. I mean: that's not really an opinion."
Finally, on Wednesday, the ATP heeded players’ demands when Adam Helfant revealed to The Associated Press during an interview at Flushing Meadows, that, “even though this is something that's been talked about for a long time, and we haven't made progress, there is a commitment to make progress on it by the end of the year."
He continued, "There's never unanimity in tennis, but I think there is consensus that we need to do something about it." He wants "a lengthening of our off-season, so we can give our players more time to rest, work on their fitness and work on their games." This signified a massive boost for the top players, desperate to give their bodies a rest in order to prolong their careers.
A delighted Djokovic, who advanced to the US Open semi finals on the same day, said in response, “I’ve been experiencing a lot of physical and health difficulties in last two, three years playing a very, very busy schedule.”
“Hopefully, it’s all going to pay off and we’re going to get a little bit shorter schedule and a schedule that is going to give us more time off.”
The ATP board will decide at the end of November whether to cut the 2012 and 2013 seasons by two to three weeks. Helfant wants a “formal decision”, no later than at the last board meeting of the year, during the November 14-21 season-ending ATP Tour finals event in London.
He also confirmed there have been no talks with the Australian Open about moving it from January.