Monday, December 29, 2008

As seasons roll on by...


It's only a mere matter of days before the pro tennis players hit the court again for the 2009 season. I know: It seems like they just left! I mean, weren't we just talking about Shanghai and Doha?

Here's my thing, though: I've always had mixed feelings about the offseason for the pros, particularly its length. Everybody who follows tennis knows what the pros think about it—it's way too short. And I guess if you were to think about it, then technically they're right. I mean, most of the players are participating in a season that takes up 40-something weeks of the year. Once that huge run is done, there's a few weeks off, then Bam! Right back at it. Throw in the travel around the world and back, and all the practice that has to be done while not at an event, and it makes for a ridiculous grind.

I can't think of a pro sport that's close to being as long with the extra elements. Golf? You can't say that because for the most part, the tours are regionalized. Ninety-nine percent of the PGA Tour events are played in the U.S. And there are different continental tours, meaning you can play from close to the comfort of your own home.

However...

Here's why sometimes I don't sympathize with the tennis players on their complaints about the offseason:

You don't have to play every week! You have mini offseasons in-season.

Let's say you're a top player: Rafael Nadal, for instance. In 2008, Rafa played 19 events (including the Olympics), winning eight titles. He also played two Davis Cup ties for Spain. Now let's say that's about 25 to 28 weeks of the year, including the two-week events. Now last time I checked, there are 52 weeks in a year. So that's about 24 to 27 weeks of no tournament play! I don't know about you, but I think more than five months off is a pretty nice chunk.

Also, if you were to win every match you play during the tournament, that's still only five days out of seven at a one-week event you're out there, or seven out of 14 at a Slam. So there are off days over the course of a tournament.

And here's something else: An eight-hour shift is not devoted to practice, practice, practice. I'd assume about half of it goes to that.

See why I'm mixed on this? In relation to other sports, the pros definitely have it rough. But from what I gather, there's a lot of down time over the course of the year. And I don't want them playing every single week of the season, the argument just gets kind of lost on me sometimes. I wish I had an offseason! Don't worry, not from TTA?, but the regular 9-to-5. I can't let my boss see that because there's a word for offseason in my world: "Fired."

(Photo: thesun.com)

4 comments:

Krystle Lee said...

I wouldn't count it like that though, how many total weeks they have off. But I most certainly think that players are entitled to take periods of consecutive weeks off, like three week or one month blocks which surely has to be similar to having an off-season. Such as a post-Wimbledon or post-US Open break which seems to occur for some of the top players. Sure it's different in that they can't just choose not to pick up a racquet at all, but who wants to not play and only focus on fitness anyway, like they do in the off-season? Playing has to be more fun comparatively.

I agree about them having to work fewer hours in the day, however. They must get more time for leisure and that sort of thing than us normal people.

heyheyhey said...

Van,

I think you are way off in your assessment. The players have to stay physically and mentally fit (or as much as possible) during their downtime during the season. *Real life* doesn't require that. I'm going to bet matches take a much more physical and mental toll on the body than an 8 hour workday, or even a 12 hour one. Have you ever flown across the country? Were you tired afterwards? Did you have to play an important match the next day? How about flying weekly, across oceans sometimes? What about all the homework they have to do on their opponents, or on improving their game? Sorry, but I am not buying your 24 to 27 weeks off story at all. Even during the off-season, they have to stay in shape at the very least.
I'm not saying I feel sorry for them. Tennis is a tough, but privileged, world. I just don't see it as simply as you put it.

I can't wait for the 2009 season to start, though!

van said...

• Hey Krystle and Heyheyhey. Happy New Year and thanks for commenting on this! I hope I didn't give the impression that pro tennis players are lazy, spoiled bums or something like that because if I did, then sorry for the mix-up. I don't think that at all. I know that maintenance, both physical and mental, is the primary thing players focus on when not competing in tournament play. But the truth is that there are 24 to 27 weeks out of the year where a player such as Nadal is not on the court playing a competitive ATP match.

Maybe I'm looking at it from too large a scope, which would be indicative of the season being too long. Then again, I also think that the season allows for recovery and recharging time, particularly if you're a top player. If the season were 10 months, would the players complain that there's not enough time to get things together before going off to the next event?

(And Heyheyhey, don't be a stranger! I haven't seen you around these parts in a while. I'm about to start writing more! Promise!)

heyheyhey said...

Hey Van,

Before I forget, Happy New Year! I haven't been around because I figured you wouldn't be posting much in the off-season. I'm waiting for you to post Aussie Open predictions. Normally, I don't like doing my own predictions, but I already have one for this year, and I'm quite excited to share it! Without seeing the draw or anything!;-)

I still think you aren't looking at the schedule in the right way. Those "not on the court" remarks don't mean the player isn't still focused on tennis, and thus, not taking time off from the sport to unwind and truly relax. But as one of my good friends always tells me, opinions are always right, even when they are wrong! You and I just differ in ours on this topic. C'est la vie (hope I spelled that right.)