ATP pros must own up to their schedule

By Leighton Ginn
The Desert Sun
January 9th, 2003

Do marathon runners complain about fatigue at the starting line?
Sounds dumb, right?

So how dumb does Marat Safin sound when he complains about the length of the season when we�re only nine days into the new year?

Couldn�t he at least wait until February?

The usual culprit is the ATP Tour, which scheduled tournaments beginning Dec. 31, 2001, and didn�t end until the Nov. 12 Tennis Masters Cup.

Then Safin played in the Davis Cup finals in early December.

Safin, a finalist in last year�s Australian Open, paid the price as he had to withdraw from the tuneup in Sydney on Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.

His status for Melbourne is unknown. The Australian Open begins Monday.

It�s no secret the schedule is overloaded with tournaments.

At some point, the players must be responsible for their own careers.

And that means scheduling smartly.

Last year, Safin played in 23 tournaments and four Davis Cup ties. He finished the year ranked No. 3, but he had only one tournament title, the Tennis Masters Series in Paris.

Pete Sampras played in only 16 tournaments and two Davis Cup ties. But he won the U.S. Open.

Andre Agassi played in 16 tournaments and skipped the Davis Cup. He won five tournaments.

Who would you say had the better year?

The big thing is that Safin gave himself a chance to have a great year. He should have finished 2002 as the No. 1 player in the world.

After the Australian Open finals, Safin reached the semifinals of the French Open.

No one was playing better than Safin. But he over-scheduled, he didn�t play as well in the final two Grand Slams and now he�s suffering from nagging injuries.

What did he pay the price for? A few extra bucks?

The ATP rankings are determined from the nine Masters Series, the four Grand Slams and your five best results from other tournaments.

That�s 18 tournaments. But Safin played five extra tournaments on top of that.

Now you want to complain about the system?

I�ll agree, the season is way too long and the ATP must address this.

Until that changes, the schedule is the schedule. It�s not a secret. Everyone knows what�s coming up in advance.

The bottom line, the players are the ones who control their schedule.

So Marat, smarten up and get your priorities straight. And don�t work so hard.