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Tennis' restart should be slow, to avoid injuries, says Peter Fleming
"Hopefully, the schedule will include smaller tournaments that provide rest weeks for the top players," says the former Top 10 player, "because no one can play more than four to five weeks in a row even when in prime condition.”
Published Apr 28, 2020
A restart of the tennis season should be gradual and carefully scheduled to avoid putting too much physical demands on the players, says former Top 10 player Peter Fleming.
While current plans for a reschedule include holding the US Open, one or two Masters and Premier events and the French Open, a restart is still very much theoretical at this point.
“Let's hope we see tennis at any point this year. It's looking more and more precarious,” Fleming told TENNIS.com. “Hopefully, the schedule will include smaller tournaments that provide rest weeks for the top players, because no one can play more than four to five weeks in a row even when in prime condition, let alone after a five or six month layoff.”
That is one reason why it would have been impractical to play or reschedule Wimbledon, even if organizers had decided not to cancel the event.
"Most players need a few weeks practice on grass before feeling comfortable," says Fleming about Wimbledon. "There was a real risk of alienating them had the tournament been squeezed into a compact schedule."
Widespread concerns about crowds during the coronavirus pandemic could keep fans away from attending tournaments, but most events depend on ticket sales to survive.
“The way things are going, I'm not sure we'll see crowds at tennis events for several months, if at all this year," Fleming says. "I hope I'm wrong, obviously, but... something profound needs to change before crowds will be accepted.
“The NBA can survive on television revenues alone because their contracts are so immense. Tennis is not so fortunate so the question is, can the tournaments make any money without fans. I doubt it. I am not sure who would be willing to foot the bill just to provide TV viewers some new content.”
Former doubles partners McEnroe and Fleming. (Getty Images)
The US Open, which is currently scheduled for late August, could present a huge problem if it is rescheduled, says Fleming, who has worked regularly as a commentator during the event.
“The US Open, as with the other Slams, is such a huge event that months are required to prepare everything," he says. "I suppose they could postpone it a few weeks, but then that pushes it into the school year, with sinking temperatures. "The biggest concern no doubt is the fact that the NYC is the epicenter [of the coronavirus].”
Fleming, who won three titles in singles and more than 60 in doubles—including seven Grand Slam doubles titles—frequently partnered with his friend, John McEnroe. He selects his 6-4, 6-4 win over him in the 1979 Los Angeles final as his best singles victory.
"He had won the US Open two weeks before, his first Slam win and was a huge deal," Fleming says. "He had sprained his ankle in between and probably wasn't moving his best—we played again in the final at San Francisco the following week, which was perhaps a better match. I was up a set and a break—three times—but went on to lose in the third (4-6, 7-5, 6-2). Nice memories.”