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.”