• Chris Wilkinson

Scheduling issues not a quick-fix

Chris Wilkinson November 27, 2012
© Getty Images

We're finally at the end of a long season and while some players have jetted off for a rare fortnight of rest and relaxation without a tennis ball in sight, others are still on tour, playing exhibition events around the globe.

Some players have been criticised for this; given that they campaigned so hard for the season to be cut short, why are they still playing tennis when they don't have to be?

But a charity match is very different to playing in the final at Wimbledon. Exhibition matches are nowhere near as physical as an ordinary tour match. It is a one-off match rather than having to play five or six in the space of a week, but perhaps just as importantly, there is not the mental stress that goes with playing a match at a grand slam.

Novak Djokovic has been in South America, where he played an exhibition match against Gustavo Kuerten - and he can be seen joking around and enjoying himself. He donned a wig and did an impression of the Brazilian and even handed his racket to a young child at one point. There is no way he invested as much energy - either physical and psychological - against Kuerten as he did in the US Open final against Andy Murray.

It's great for the players that they have shaved two weeks off the calendar, but there are definitely a few issues which need ironing out.

The main problem was that there was not enough time between the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals. While I understand the ATP was under pressure from the players to remove couple of weeks from the calendar, I don't think cutting out the week between Paris and London is the answer.

The ATP World Tour Finals are staying in London until 2015 © Getty Images

We saw it at the Paris Masters - the top players (David Ferrer excluded) just weren't as focused because it was too close to the Finals to really want to go deep into the week. Roger Federer withdrew before the tournament began and Djokovic was never at the races.

Some other players obviously took advantage and it was a great tournament for Jerzy Janowicz, but I think if the schedule stays as it is we will see more and more players cutting Paris from their schedule completely. Organisers want the big names to be playing in their event and playing in the final, not just making an early exit.

It's not fair on the organisers, who put on a great event in Bercy, to have it a week before the ATP World Tour Finals - there is talk of it being moved to earlier in the season - possibly February.

As for the World Tour Finals, it will be staying in London until 2015, which is great news for British tennis fans. It is a great venue, a fantastic atmosphere, the event sells out and the players love it. There is obviously an argument that England already has a grand slam, as has Paris, Australia and the US, so why not move it to somewhere different, but with the current schedule it has to stay in Europe.

The schedule is a work in progress and they will keep making tweaks to try to improve it. From 2015 Wimbledon is being moved back a week to give players more time to switch from the clay to the grass. There have been mutterings that the Australian Open should be moved to February to give players more time to ease into the season, but then you risk upsetting the organisers of the clay court tournaments in South America.

The Davis Cup is another area that could be worth looking at. In my opinion making the event biennial like the Ryder Cup is the way forward - that way players can better plan their schedules and it will make it that much more special. Having said that, the atmosphere in Prague for the Davis Cup final earlier this month just goes to show that the event is very much still alive and kicking.

In an ideal world it would be easier to wipe the slate clean and start again, but in reality this is impossible. There are so many different stakeholders - tournament organisers, players, sponsors and fans to keep happy that it is not possible, but little tweaks here and there can make a big difference.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Chris Wilkinson Close
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.