Nadal, Fed-ex pull out of Hamburg
The duo announced that they were too exhausted to compete after playing a 5-hour final in Rome Masters on Sunday.india Updated: May 15, 2006 20:10 IST
ATP Tour officials may want to ponder again the absurdities of the tournament calendar following the unprecedented withdrawal of the world's two leading players on the opening day of a Masters Series.
World number one Roger Federer and French Open champion Rafael Nadal both announced they were too exhausted to take part in the Hamburg Masters after playing a five-hour final in the Rome Masters on Sunday.
In Federer's case it was hardly a surprise, for he had said soon after the marathon final, in which he held two match points and lost, that he would make an announcement about Hamburg on Monday.
This indicated that he felt the exertion would be too much to try to play another six matches on the slowest and most demanding surface of all this week.
But many had felt that the 19-year-old Nadal might try at least for just one more match, in order to break Guillermo Vilas' 53-match record of wins on clay courts.
However Nadal also feels that becoming sucked into another long tournament, with potentially only six days in which to recover before the defence of his French Open title, is too much of a risk. The clay court Grand Slam starts a day earlier this year.
That should re-open a perennial debate about the vagaries of the positioning of major tournaments. But changing entrenched dates, and affecting the vested interests of sponsors, is a vexed and often intractable question.
Nevertheless there is also wide recognition that a more rational calendar is one of the biggest issues facing modern tennis, because ensuring the presence of leading names in top condition at world-class venues is the only way to keep up with other sporting competition and with the needs of television.
The two American Masters Series, Indian Wells and Miami, in March and April, have provided a part solution by making themselves a week and a half long, with a minimum three day gap between tournaments.
Whether Hamburg and Rome can reach a similar solution is doubtful, but for sure the possibility of different remedies will again be discussed by the ATP - and more urgently this time.
Meanwhile Federer and Nadal now have a fortnight in which to lick their wounds and prepare for the long road to the final in Roland Garros on June 11th.
There will be many hurdles before they can get there, but if they do both make it for their third clay court meeting of 2006, it will be one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of all time.