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Double Fault; Chronic injuries are unavoidable with Tennis’ gruelling schedule

Across 6 tournaments in the last week there have been just fewer than 30 player withdrawals due to injury.

 adrian_rattenbury

This startling finding has sparked the debate once more that players are putting their bodies on the line repeatedly without adequate rest and rehabilitation. The combination of an ever dwindling off season, general overtraining and the increasing exposure to the unforgiving concrete courts, that dominate the circuit in the modern era, are the main causes of players breaking down.

Britain’s very own Laura Robson is a case in point as she battles to contain the wrist pain which has been worsened by a total of 21 events in 9 months last season. Less than a week into 2014, Robson has already joined top-20 players Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Richard Gasquet and John Isner on the treatment table.

With the Australian Open about to begin on Monday 13th January the majority of players will have allowed themselves 3 weeks off in December in preparation for the Australian summer.  Tennis has no off-season like many other professional sports. So for a lot of the players they will still have been grinding it out in tournaments until the end of November.

A combination of the pressure to satisfy tournament sponsors, appease TV and Media schedules, win prize money and secure ranking points is compelling players to compete too regularly and in turn they are putting themselves at a far greater risk of injury.

Top 10 players must commit to specific WTA tournaments, exclusive of the Grand Slams and the year-end WTA Championships, which include the four Premier Mandatory tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, and Beijing), four of the Premier 5’s (Dubai, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, and Tokyo) and at least two 700-level tournaments. A player has the option of skipping one of the Premier 5s annually, but must enter the one she skipped in the next year. It is not hard to grasp what a gruelling schedule that becomes in practice for Tennis’ elite.

The intrusion of TV and media schedules is deep rooted and a snapshot of how challenging that can be is seen every year during the US Open’s flagship ‘Super Saturday’ where the men’s semi-finals are played just one day before the final. Often, the winner of the second semi-final gets to bed so late that he barely has time to prepare for what should be one of the most important matches of his life.

In 1985, McEnroe took over five hours to beat Mats Wilander, a former world No 1, in five sets in the second semi-final. The next day he was beaten in straight sets by Ivan Lendl. Other stars down the years could conceivably plead that their hopes of winning this title had been ruined by the effort they had been required to expend the day before the final.

The reasoning for such ridiculous scheduling is purely down to monetary and financial decisions where tennis quickly becomes the byproduct.

Will the time come when the players start taking the administrators to court? Many of the top players have not shied away from expressing their concern over Twitter.Andy Murray took to Twitter following the debacle of the 2011 US Open to write

 “Is the 18th pull out in the US Open telling the tennis authorities anything?? No?? Thought not….”

Unless something is to change then the current situation might give way to Litigation, as we have seen in football.

Adrian Rattenbury – Sports Consultant

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