ATP Tour to Consider Shortening Tennis Season Starting in 2012

Heeding pleas from players for a longer offseason, the ATP World Tour will consider trimming its tennis calendar starting in 2012 to give the men more time to rest.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain is among the players who have said the ATP makes them compete in too many tournaments scheduled too closely together. The circuit consists of 62 events in 32 countries and runs from January until the end of November.

The ATP wants to shorten the season “to give our players more time to take a rest, work on their general conditioning and work on their games,” Adam Helfant, executive chairman and president of the men’s tour, said in an interview yesterday at the U.S. Open in New York.

The ATP board will decide at the end of November whether to cut the 2012 and 2013 seasons by two to three weeks, said Helfant, a former Nike Inc. vice president who joined the tour at the beginning of 2009.

Third-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who advanced to the U.S. Open semifinals yesterday for the fourth straight year, said the current offseason of four weeks is too short. Players ideally need two weeks of rest, plus four or five weeks to prepare for the new season, he said.

‘Health Difficulties’

“I’ve been experiencing a lot of physical and health difficulties in last two, three years playing a very, very busy schedule,” Djokovic said in a news conference. “Hopefully, it’s all going to pay off and we’re going to get a little bit shorter schedule and a schedule that is going to give us more time off.”

The circuit is “on track to equal or better” last year’s record tournament attendance of 4.4 million, Helfant said. This season, events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome and Toronto had record numbers of spectators.

“We have great champions, led by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal,” Helfant said. “And the depth and diversity of talent on the tour is at an all-time high. Our guys are driving more interest and more fans into the sport than ever before.”

The tour in February signed a global sponsorship agreement through 2015 with Grupo Modelo SAB’s Corona Extra beer brand. The ATP had been without a main partner since its 12-year agreement with Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit expired at the end of 2008.

The tour said yesterday it had struck a three-year worldwide deal with FedEx Corp., the world’s largest air-cargo carrier.

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