US Open 2023: Tennis players and the empty tank syndrome | Tennis | Sports

Not one voice has been raised. Before disembarking at the US Open, the number one in the world, Iga Swiatek, expressed what many tennis players have felt for a long time. An exhaustion that is pronounced more and more. “The truth is that I feel that my energy tank is quite empty. I need a little rest before going to New York. If the tournaments are longer and longer, we have less time to recover. I think next year is going to be pretty extreme if all the Masters 1,000 last two weeks. So I don’t think the withdrawals are a coincidence. I think it is a sign for the WTA and the ATP to take it easy, ”denounced the Pole, who competes in this final stretch of the year with her tongue hanging out. Like the vast majority.

Tennis is exhausted and the players, stuck in that “hamster wheel” that the Russian Daria Kasatkina described during the spring, melted down. The injuries are multiplied both by the annual physical erosion and by the mental stress of having to compete yes or yes. To the operating system, which is already demanding, is added the claim of the different organizations to want to squeeze the goose that lays the golden eggs ad nauseam: more and longer tournaments, with untimely hours and no margin for recovery between competitions. and another. A hellish calendar that far from correcting the problem increases it. Little seems to matter, lament many professionals, as long as the cash register continues at full capacity.

“The players have been talking about this for a long time. Preseasons practically don’t exist anymore; you have seven or ten days off and then three weeks to prepare for the next year. Now I have lost two Masters 1000, but either you stop or there is no way to hold out the whole season ”, explains Roberto Carballés to this newspaper, to which Alejandro Davidovich joins, quoted in the third round with the local Tommy Paul. “Yes, it may be that there are a few more tournaments. The calendar is crazy, because if you have Davis you end up in December, so you don’t have time on vacation or to prepare well for the following season”, adds the Andalusian, who arrived at the New York tournament between cotton pads due to recurring back problems from those that are not fully recovered. No, because there is no margin.

Frances Tiafoe, during the match against Sebastian Ofner.
Frances Tiafoe, during the match against Sebastian Ofner.WILL OLIVER (EFE)

This year, the men’s tour program (ATP) gives players just 26 days off between tournaments and officially concludes on December 2; in fact, he was born on December 29, 2022. In the case of the women’s (WTA), the players have only four more days of truce. The transition that existed at the time between one course and another has disappeared. With the exception of the figures, which in principle have more room to select, most are subject to the tyranny of ranking –defend the points obtained the previous year, then play constantly– and also the night schedules and the improvisation, in many cases, of the orders of play.

The ‘Grand Slam format’

The Scotsman Andy Murray, a guy without mincing words, was clear a few days ago: “I think that in general it is not good for anyone. Obviously, when players complain about something, people tell us to shut up or tell us to go to work at a warehouse from nine to five. I understand. I know I’m lucky to play tennis, but playing at four in the morning I don’t think it helps the sport much, when you know that everyone is leaving because they have to take public transport home and you end a match with 10% of the capacity As for us, you can’t expect someone to recover if you finish at dawn.”

For some time here, the calendar has been adding more and more competitions and expanding. And, as if that were not enough, the Masters 1000 –second category after the greats– are doubling their length –from one to two weeks– and acquiring the format of the four Grand Slams to multiply the income.

Ons Jabeur, during a game in New York.
Ons Jabeur, during a game in New York.SARAH YENESEL (EFE)

“You can’t pretend to play from January to November, and like that from one year to the next. It’s very complicated. I don’t know what the solution is, but most of us are going to the limit. I think the system [ranking] tennis is the most demanding in the world, because at all times you are afraid that if you don’t play and defend the points, you will fall, and that forces you to continue and continue. In the end, you enter the wheel and the body suffers ”, adds Carballés. “In the end, the best thing is not to think. Either you are very good, or players like me have to continue to score points”, continues Davidovich, who adds: “Many injuries are mental, due to stress and all the tension that everyday life entails. You have to try to find the balance, but tennis is very screwed up; if you stop playing for a couple of weeks, you lose the rhythm. It’s not like football.”

Despite the complaints, the estates turn a deaf ear. Hence Swiatek’s distress call: “In the second part of the season, you feel like you’ve already played too much.” But number one found a replica in Martina Navratilova. “I understand stress. But normally I played two or three tournaments between Wimbledon and the US Open, and I felt tired after the US Open, not before. If you’re so mentally tired, don’t play. You have to be strong or simply take a break. I didn’t allow myself to do it”, affirms the American, of Czech origin, while the physique of the players continues to suffer and the cash register of this sport, billing.

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