‘Kills players’: The problem tennis can’t ignore
ROGER Federer is rolling through the bottom half of the men's singles draw and can reach the main event on Sunday night without having to play anyone seeded higher than tonight's quarter-final opponent Tomas Berdych (19).
The only other seed Federer has played was Richard Gasquet (29), who he enjoys a 16-2 head-to-head record against and steamrolled in three sets in the third round.
Let's make it clear that none of this is the Swiss maestro's fault. He can only play who is in front of him. The problem is none of his biggest rivals can stay on the court.
Rafael Nadal put a problem tennis can no longer ignore firmly on the agenda after limping off in the fifth set of his quarter-final match against Marin Cilic on Tuesday night.
Nadal joined Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka - who were both clearly far from their best after returning from injury lay-offs - in exiting the tournament prematurely.
Add Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, who didn't even make the start line because of their own health problems, and the second week at Melbourne Park has been robbed of most of the sport's biggest stars.
"Somebody who is running the tour should think little bit about what's going on," Nadal said.
"Too many people getting injured. I don't know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis.
"I don't know if we keep playing in this very, very hard surfaces what's going to happen in the future with our lives."
Nadal didn't directly refer to the jam-packed tennis schedule but others were happy to continue the conversation.
There's little doubt Federer, the 19-time grand slam winner, is benefiting from the reduced schedule he adopted when injuries were threatening to end his time as a legitimate major contender in 2016.
Other players don't enjoy the luxury of being able to pick and choose which tournaments they play in, because they need the points and the prizemoney on offer.
Federer's less-grinding style of play could also be sparing his joints from the wear and tear long-rallying baseliners like Nadal, Djokovic and Murray endure.
So is it time for change?
There's been a push in some sections of the tennis media to reduce men's singles matches at grand slams from five sets to three.
Others have suggested changing the rankings system so players are rewarded more significantly for the quality of their performances at each tournament, rather than the quantity of tournaments they enter.
Officials will be reluctant to overreact to a problem they may think is partly coincidental, but if there's enough starless grand slams then something may eventually give.
Nadal will undergo scans to determine the exact nature and severity of the leg muscle injury that forced him to retire against Cilic.
Nadal received treatment in the fourth set before he succumbed down a break in the fifth set with Cilic leading 3-6 6-3 6-7 (7-5) 6-2 2-0 on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal called for the trainer for the first time down 1-4 in the fourth set and received treatment high on his right leg by the side of the court. He received further attention after he lost the fourth set and shook Cilic's hand after he lost his first service game of the final set.
"It's not my hip, but I can't tell you exactly the muscle," a despondent Nadal told reporters after he limped slowly into his post-match press conference in obvious discomfort.
"It's high on the leg. We'll communicate what's going on after I have an MRI (on Wednesday)."
The Spaniard said he first felt that the muscle was "a little bit tired" in the third set then felt something happen when he played a drop shot in the fourth. Nadal withdrew from tournaments at the end of last season due to an ongoing knee injury that also forced him out of this year's Brisbane International.
- with AAP