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Dear ATP World Tour, give the players a break!

A forehand cross court. A shot that for many a tennis professional seems routine and one that many of them could hit in their sleep. Furthermore, for a certain Novak Djokovic, this shot has provided the platform for his rise as one of the greatest players of all time. However, this shot is now recognised as his last stroke of his 2017 season. A wayward forehand against Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarter-finals made him realise there was no point carrying on. Retiring from the match, and ultimately from this season is not as huge of a shock compared to his great rival Roger Federer’s exit from 2016 at Wimbledon. But, there will be several questions floating around people’s minds regarding the intensity and grind of a tennis season. Even if more players are playing into their 30s, is it really worth putting all the effort if at the supposed peak of your powers, you have to take a forced break from the game?

Djokovic Australia

Let’s face the facts, the tennis season is too long. Not only for the top players, who finish their year under the lights at the O2 Arena, but also for players who face the daily grind of the challenger circuit. Starting in early January and ending in November gives a month to not only rest and reflect, but also to prepare for the season ahead. The players at the summit of the ATP World Tour have made this seemingly perilous situation seem like child’s play over the years, providing moments of unforgettable genius from the beginning of a year Down Under. Now that the most successful player at the Australian Open has fallen victim to the rigours of the tennis season, surely the ATP World Tour must realise they are asking too much from players. A lot has been made in recent years with regards to prize money increasing year on year, but even if you are given millions of pounds, how much can the body take of travelling week in week out to all parts of the globe? Tennis is a hugely popular sport, with huge amounts of money being invested and there is almost an unwritten requirement that every city in the world must have a prestigious tennis tournament. In the next few years, the number of tournaments may only increase but the quality of player entering their name into the field will diminish. Is this really worth it? I think we all know the answer, but the question is will the ATP officials ever know the answer?

After his retirement from Court One at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, John McEnroe correctly predicted that Djokovic would step away from tennis for the rest of the season. He also suggested that Andy Murray will only play the US Open and then call it quits with 2017. To have two of the best players in the world considering stepping away from the game for a huge chunk of the season must be another area of concern for tennis officials. If it was not for the magic of Federer and Rafael Nadal this year turning back the clock, tennis could have been in a very precarious position without the Big Four at the top of the game. Seeing the success that Federer and Nadal have had this year might have had something to do with Djokovic’s decision to take time off. However, like Federer mentioned in his Wimbledon quarter-final press conference, a prolonged break will not always work. Djokovic’s break is due to injury and it is likely he will play better tennis come 2018, but there is the danger that this will become a trend for players when they are not playing well due to injury. Injuries are a part of sport, no question, but can we lessen the frequency of them? Something as radical as a mid-season break for all players may seem farcical at the moment, but it may need to become a reality sooner rather than later.

Djokovic Wimbledon 2017

So, as another legend bites the dust for a period of more than a month away from the game, serious questions must be asked of the esteemed organisation know as the ATP World Tour. For all we know, this break may do Djokovic the world of good and he could be back dominating the sport in 2018. Nonetheless, does the tour want to risk losing their players for six months at a time so that they can take the necessary time to heal their wounded bodies? Would it not be better to have players playing less throughout the year but ultimately playing regularly through a season? All these questions need to be answered, but now we wish the 12 time Grand Slam champion all the best in his recovery. Come back and grace us with your charismatic presence in 2018 and ultimately prove why you are one of the greatest players of all time.