After leading Spain to the title at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid and the final of the new ATP Cup in Sydney within seven weeks, Rafael Nadal has called for tennis to find a way to ‘fix’ its overcrowded calendar.
Australian Open tennis is live from Melbourne from 20 January until 2 February 2020.
World no. 1 Nadal has decried the farcical tennis scheduling which means that two multi-team international competitions, featuring similar casts of players, take place within six weeks of each other.
Nadal finished the 2020 season by playing a crucial role in Spain’s victory at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals, a new format which replaced the 120-year-old competition’s home-and-away ties throughout the year with a week-long finals held at a neutral venue.
The Davis Cup Finals ended on Sunday 24 November and the ATP Cup Finals, a new tournament which saw 24 national teams facing off over ten days across three Australian cities, began on Friday 3 January – 40 days later.
Speaking after Spain lost the ATP Cup final against Serbia in Sydney 1-2, Nadal said:
‘It is a long competition. Is a tough way to start the season. I don’t know.
‘I think it is a great competition, but at the same time I can’t change my mind that two World Cups in one month is not real. So is not possible.
‘So we need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big World Team Cup competition, not two World Cups in one month.
‘I think that’s a confusion for the spectators, and we need to be clear in our sport.
‘And for the health of our sport and for the benefit of our sport it is, in my opinion, mandatory that we fix it.’
Tennis has always been a sport with a short off-season but the new-look Davis Cup Finals have substantially extended it for many players.
Nadal’s performances during the ATP Cup did suggest that the world no. 1 was struggling with the quick turnaround between one season and the next. He suffered a shock defeat to David Goffin of Belgium in Friday’s quarterfinals and had to play the deciding doubles as a result, a match that ended extremely late in Sydney. On Saturday, he had to come back from a set down against Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the semifinals and in Sunday’s final, a 2-6, 6-7(4) defeat to Novak Djokovic left the tie poised at 1-1.
Nadal did not play the deciding doubles rubber, which saw Djokovic and Viktor Troicki beat Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 to clinch the title.
‘I have been playing a lot of tennis the last couple of days,’ he said.
‘My level of energy is a little bit lower than usual because I played long yesterday, very long before yesterday, very long in Perth the last day.’
The Spanish player later complained about the behavior of some of the crowd for the final, which had a strong Serbian contingent, saying:
‘They think it’s about football or this stuff and atmosphere in tennis is different, no? The respect for the players should be there.’
Nadal has moved on to Melbourne, where he will be leading the field when the 2020 Australian Open begins on Monday 20 January, alongside defending champion Djokovic. The 2009 champion has committed to taking part in the ‘Rally for Relief’ exhibition match which is scheduled to take place on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday 15 January, to raise money for Australian bushfire relief. Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Nick Kyrgios are also scheduled to appear.