BARCELONA (Reuters) - Rafael Nadal has made a thinly veiled attack on the ruling body of the men’s game, saying that the ATP’s crowded calendar is ruining tennis in Europe and endangering the longevity of players’ careers.
The Spaniard, who next month will bid to win the French Open for the fourth consecutive time, said he had virtually given up hope of the situation changing for the better.
The ATP has made several changes to the calendar in 2008 to accommodate the Olympic Games, meaning that Nadal will play four tournaments on clay in four weeks, with just a week off before the French Open.
Three of those tournaments are Masters Series events, which automatically count towards a player’s ranking.
“These people are destroying Europe and Europe used to be the foundation of the tour,” Nadal said in Barcelona, where he is defending his Barcelona Open title.
”I think it’s completely impossible to play at one’s best level for all four tournaments -- Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg.
“You just have to accept this situation, all the players will be the same, they will not be able to play at their high level for all four, I think it’s totally impossible.”
Nadal said tournaments would have to accept that more top players than usual were likely to suffer early defeats.
”I think that when a player loses in the first round or pulls out -- and they get criticized -- the tournament should ring these people (the ATP) and tell them that it is their fault.
“I have some email conversations with these people but it is true that they end up doing what they like and I am getting tired of it all.”
Nadal’s comments were backed up by American James Blake, who said the whole calendar needed to be restructured.
”The Olympics is such a unique experience that we need to make arrangements for but the calendar is too packed and maybe we should take out the Davis Cup in Olympic years.
”You’ll see how many matches (Nadal) plays this clay-court season, how many matches guys like (Roger) Federer, (Andy) Roddick, (Novak) Djokovic and myself play throughout the entire year.
“It’s probably too much to expect a player to have a lengthy career. It makes it very difficult.”
Editing by John O'Brien