Rome Masters 2024: Two-week tournaments saturate tennis: “Rest? Resting is sleeping at home” | Tennis | Sports

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An example is the exotic poster of the men’s semifinals of this Masters 1000 in Rome, where there was no trace of Djokovic, Sinner or Alcaraz – the last two, injured, have not even competed – nor of specialists like Casper Ruud or Stefanos Tsitsipas. The presence of Alexander Zverev was logical, but the remaining roster draws (a lot of) attention. The American Tommy Paul, a puncher whose undisputed habitat is cement, had never made it past the third round of a major tournament on clay; The Chilean Nicolás Jarry, on the other hand, does know how to perform on clay, but his record reflects that beyond the round of 16 achieved at Roland Garros last year, he had not managed to shine in an event of these characteristics either, with the third round also as limit; and, above all, surprising is the more than unexpected progression of Alejandro Tabilo, a player pending on the scale in his day – he dropped from 110 kilos to 65, problems in both cases – and who at 26 years old had not achieved until now access the main draw of any major sand tournament.

This strange panorama coincides – not in the feminine, where the finalists Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka do not let up – with the recurring injuries, complaints and monotony. “Spending so much time in tournaments is becoming boring,” Kazakh Elena Rybakina indicated in the Foro Italico. “Mentally it becomes a little harder, because now we spend less time at home, and that means we actually have less time to recover,” says Russian Andrey Rublev. “Yes, they tell you that you have a day in between, that you don’t have to play every day, but that’s not resting; “resting is spending time at home, sleeping in your own bed and with your family, your dogs and your children, right?” German Zverev reluctantly continues, referring, in line with his colleagues, to the progressive settlement of the two-week tournaments (Masters and WTA 1000); that is, double the traditional format. The extension further compresses an already saturated calendar and blurs the border with the Grand Slams.

It does not seem to worry the circuit directors excessively, nor the tournament organizers or the sponsors who associate with them. But rather the opposite. The extension means greater presence, reinforcing the brand image and trying to hang the name of Fifth Grand Slam, squeeze income – the VIP area of ​​the Caja Mágica, for example, has doubled its activity – and obtain a greater profit from the sale of television rights. Consequently, tennis and more tennis, business and more business; from January 1 to November 24. The tournaments overlap and the transition between them disappears; Nadal is seen one day in Barcelona, ​​the next in Madrid and two later at the Foro Italico. Top-level tennis players, obliged by the regulations – which establishes the obligation to compete, with few exceptions for figures with long and productive careers – and also by the operation of the ranking —to gain points or retain those from the previous season—, they barely find any parentheses and show sustained tension. The loop goes on and on, and the show, in many cases, suffers.

This year, the men’s program gives almost no respite and in 2025, the dynamic will be even worse, because seven of the nine Masters 1000 will be two weeks. Indian Wells and Miami were added to the traditional Grand Slam format in the early 2000s; Last year, Madrid, Rome and Shanghai joined; and the next one will be Canada and Cincinnati —in the summer period prior to the US Open— those that will expand the extension. In this way, only two events, Monte Carlo and Paris-Bercy, will maintain the duration of one week. In the women’s case, seven of the 10 1000 category tournaments will be two weeks in 2025: Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, Beijing, Cincinnati and Montreal.

Greater effort, longer

The tournaments are growing and, logically, the demand. The bodies, subjected to increasingly greater and more continuous sacrifices, suffer from it. It does not seem that the concatenation of injuries responds to chance, while the best rackets on the circuit continue to fall. Madrid, recent symptom of the sieve: Sinner, Medvedev, Lehecka. “The injuries have always been there,” Nadal pointed out upon his arrival in the Italian capital. “When you push your body to the limit, you eventually get injured. When tennis gets faster and faster, you get injured. When you play most of the year on hard courts and the surfaces are harder on the body, you get injured. That’s the simple answer. And then there is the other world, that of tournaments; that’s business. That’s another conversation. In the end, players want to win money. The tournament wants to make money. So it’s the whole cycle that comes together. We accept that role,” added the Spaniard.

Tabilo, during the match against Zverev.Guglielmo Mangiapane (REUTERS)

“Adding more days, you have to be kind of a superhero to be consistent for two weeks in a row. All this harms the sport. Start with the mental and continue with the physical; It causes us players to get injured,” criticizes Tsitsipas. “When you have a day off it helps you a lot to be physically prepared for the next match, so I would say that physically it is easier to recover during tournaments, but mentally you have to be prepared because in reality there are no days off, because even between a match and another, normally we come here and train, we see the same faces and eat the same, so you can’t completely disconnect,” says number one, Swiatek. “In general, the circuit is becoming more demanding due to the length of the tournaments and all these mandatory rules, both in ATP and WTA. We will see what happens in the future, planning will be very important,” adds the Pole. And Aryna Sabalenka positions herself along the same intermediate line: “They get long, but I prefer to have a day of rest.”

In return, the increase in days leads to an increase in the number of participants, thus expanding the range of professionals who can access the tables. “They are fantastic for those who are among the top-50 and the top-100but not for those of the top-10. “It’s that simple,” says Zverev, who in turn emphasizes that reaching the final rounds ends up penalizing the tennis player, who is subjected to greater pressure and forced to “work much harder.” The German, finalist for the third time in Rome – eleventh in an M-1000 – thanks to the comeback against Tabilo (1-6, 7-6(4) and 6-2, in 2h 16m), understands that the current approach is unsustainable, given that the recovery margin is minimal and that, he argues, preparation affects “not only what you train on the court or how much you play”, but also “the effort in the gym, the invisible work” and the correct administration of breaks.

SWIATEK AND SABALENKA, AGAIN

A.C.

Again, one against two. The Polish Swiatek will face Aryna Sabalenka this Saturday (not before 5:00 p.m., Teledeporte and Dazn) after the final starring both of them just two weeks ago in Madrid. In the Caja Mágica, the Warsaw team prevailed, who also dominates face-to-face (7-3) and also on clay (4-1). Two years ago she clearly won the semi-final in Rome.

Swiatek will reach the final match after having defeated Bernarda Pera, Yulia Putitnseva, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys and Coco Gauff without having given up a set. The Belarusian, on the other hand, conceded two along the way (Katie Volynets, Dayana Yamstremska, Elena Svitolina, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko) and saved a match point in the round of 16.

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