By Benjamin Snyder
The sun has quickly – and probably too quickly — risen over another season in professional tennis. The Australian Open — also known as the Sunny Slam –is well underway, but injuries have already cast a substantial shadow on what should be a joyous start to a year ripe with competition.
In fact, the year’s first major suffered a total of 13 retirements. Nine came from the men’s side and four from the women’s. This beats the previous rate of 12 at the ’03 event.
Even at the 2011 US Open held at the end of August, a record number of players pulled out, along with 13 top men who entered the event hurt and four women.
As that major tournament progressed, according to a report put together by USA Today: “a rash of mid-match withdrawals…has pushed the U.S. Open into record territory. Never have more players retired at a Grand Slam tournament in the post-1968 Open era.”
The remarkable rate of retirements started at the tournament in Brisbane. Like the Grand Slams, it’s an event that draws some of the world’s top talent for both the men and women due to its status as a tune-up. This year, the WTA tournament featured the likes of recent US Open champion Samantha Stosur, last year’s Australian Open winner Kim Clijsters and the 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, among others.
Of those players, however, only one survived the week injury-free. Compare that to last year and no one bowed out due to injury. This year, the casualties totaled four.
In the 2012 ATP tournament held at Brisbane, one man retired this year as opposed to zero last year.
For the men, the off-season began with the year-end event in London on November 20. For the women, it was a month earlier. The problem is: that’s not nearly enough time for the body to rest, or to kick off the new season injury free.
And this is no way to begin a new year for tennis. It’s crucial that talks begin as soon as possible between players and officials. Instead, there’s been a series of infighting between 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
States a recent Associated Press article: “A division has emerged, though, between Nadal and…Federer, who does not want the players’ grievances aired in public because he thinks it damages the image of the game.” The Swiss needs to know he’s in the wrong, and it’s up to the other players, including Nadal, to enforce more pressure on the situation.
Nadal, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick started to combine forces at the US Open by talking and alerting media, but since then action has barely taken place since besides more hushed meetings and angry press conferences.
In the same article, the ATP’s new chairman and president assured reporters that he’s aware of the concerns put forth by the players. He said: “I heard the players loud and clear the other night about their issues. My plan is to represent their opinions wherever it needs to be represented and make sure they’re heard.”
The only problem is: How many more men and women need to get hurt before that call to action is seriously undertaken? When will less tournaments be made mandatory for players from World No. 1 to 100 and when will more thought be given not for the sake of the sponsors, but rather to just how much the human body can physically manage?
With the way things seem to be going, 2012 maybe not be bright, but rather curbed by continued pain for some of the world’s most favored athletes. Meanwhile, fans, get ready for a bleak twilight to set on tennis this year than anything else if something drastic isn’t done soon.