ATP to extend offseason to 7 weeks in 2012

The ATP is extending the offseason in men’s tennis from five to
seven weeks, starting in 2012, without reducing the number of
tournaments.

The decision, announced Sunday at the ATP World Tour Finals, was
approved by the ATP Board ahead of the season-ending event at the
O2 Arena in London.

”Our 2012 and 2013 calendars each provide for the seven-week
offseason, meaning that our players will have an additional two
weeks to spend away from the rigors of life on tour before taking
up the cause again in the following year,” ATP President Adam
Helfant said.

”I’m happy to say that these new calendars and the expanded
offseason reflect the broad consensus among our members that the
players, and really the sport as a whole, needed a longer break. It
didn’t take long to find that consensus.”

The men’s tour has gone on vacation from the end of the ATP
finals in November until the start of the following season in early
January at the Brisbane International, Chennai Open and Qatar
Open.

But the seasons will end sooner in 2012 and ’13 with the
rescheduling of four late-season events along with the removal of
the off-week between the Paris Masters and the ATP finals.

”We took the view that with the increasing physical and mental
demanding on our game, standing still was actually more like moving
backwards,” Helfant said. ”Doing nothing today, because some
think there might be a more complete solution, including aspects
outside our control sometime in the future, didn’t feel right or
responsible for that matter.”

For years, players have complained that the season was too long,
and that the wear-and-tear of playing so many matches and so many
tournaments was causing injuries.

”The health and well-being of our players is a tour-wide issue
and preserving and extending the playing careers of our top players
is critical for the long-term good of the game,” Helfant said.

Roger Federer, who beat David Ferrer 6-1, 6-4 Sunday in his
opening match at the ATP finals, said it was good move, but ”time
will tell.”

”In six weeks, you can heal problems, inflammations, you name
it,” said Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam champion. ”Inflammations
take — I’m not a doctor — but about three weeks to
heal. Four weeks is a good thing. So that still leaves you a bit of
practice.

”Every player needs to know for himself how many tournaments he
needs to play,” Federer added. ”We love the travel. We love the
grind. … I wouldn’t want it any different. I did it for 10 years
already. I’m ready to do another 10 years, if I have to.”

This year, the final week of the season — the ATP finals
— started Nov. 21. But in 2012, the final week will begin on
Nov. 5.

The Davis Cup, however, would still be scheduled to be played
after the ATP finals.

The season-ending ATP finals, a tournament for the top eight
players in the world, will be in London at least through 2013. If
the tournament goes back to Asia or another venue that could cause
difficulty for travel from Paris, more changes could be made.

”We have not even begun to think about what post 2013 could
start to look like,” Helfant said. ”When we start to have those
conversations, which could be next year, we can of course look at
our calendars.”