Time for Some Hard Decisions

Rafael Nadal’s call for less hard court tournaments is getting plenty of support. It is clear the Spaniard puts his persistent knee troubles down to, at least partly, the damage done by playing on hard courts, but he is far from the only player affected by the rigours of playing on this surface.
Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of the Dubai Duty Free Championships due to a bruised bone in her right foot and barely a tournament on the WTA or ATP tennis tours happens without a big name withdrawing at some point.
Nadal epitomises the high-impact, energetic, and power-based game that the top men and women need to play to prosper, and there is no doubt that a punishing schedule does their bodies no favours. Huge pressure is put on their joints in every match, with unforgiving hard courts the most likely to cause wear and tear.
The effects of the proliferation of hard court tournaments are exacerbated by the length of the season. No other elite sportspeople have such an arduous season, in so many countries. Constant flying is not good for finely tuned athletes and most will manage only a few weeks off the practice court in November before they start preparations for the Australian Open and its warm-up events.
Nadal, who has, for so long, been behind Spain’s favourable Davis Cup betting odds, cites tennis’ unique use of cement as a playing surface as proof that the authorities do not have the players’ welfare at the top of their list of priorities. He does not expect to be able to play recreational sport after he has retired.
Money talks, of course, and no organisers of profitable tournaments will volunteer for their event to be scrapped. However, if some tournaments do not go on the scrapheap, some top players – with Nadal the likeliest candidate – soon will.
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