Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Scheduling Dominoes

Each year I'm always astonished at how the respective tours put together their schedule.

The ATP has gone to round-robin format, which first received high praise last fall but was given mostly thumbs down following its debut prior to the Australian Open.

On the women's side, Melbourne is preceded by Sydney (a Tier I) and then followed by Tokyo (a Tier I).

What really baffles me is the importance that is placed on the majors by the players, media and the organizations, but that two of the majors (I think you can guess which), have just two weeks of warm-up time before their respective tournaments start.

The one frustration I've had with newly-released ideas for a rearrangement of tour schedules is that no one is willing to do away with a possible December start date. Check this out:
-The season kicks off in mid-December and there are 4-5 weeks of play in SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia prior to the Aussie (which would start one week later).
-The tours then takes a inevitable journey to indoor, random outdoor and clay events before re-focusing in late-March for the beginning of the clay season. Roland Garros would take place two weeks earlier, running through May.
-June would mean grass and northwestern Europe and Britain would host 4 weeks of grasscourt play before Wimbledon took place the first two weeks of July.
-WTT committed players and those in need of a rest would take the second two weeks of July off, giving a much-needed break from the Europe swing of the tour.
-The US Open Series would be alive and well, taking place in August before the US Open, which would start one week later: Labor Day weekend.
-The fall season would be shorter and more tightly-strung. Play a few indoor events leading up to the season-ending championships which would be held at the end of October. This would give the players a healthy two-month break and allow for rest and refuge.

It, of course, is not the perfect plan. The thing that I can't shake out of my head is that three out of the four majors are held in typically bad-weather cities. Paris is frigid in the winter and has an ugly spring; London gets as much or more rain as Seattle and New York is as far north as St. Paul, Minnesota. It's a wonder how a warm-weather sport can end up contesting its most coveted prizes in places that just aren't built for it.

Until the schedule issue is solved, however, we will continue to see rampant injuries, botched top-tier draws and continuous big name absences from the games rough nature.

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