January 13, 2011
Posted: 1705 GMT
Nearly every tennis fan has a favorite major. It’s usually based on nationality, location or court surface. My favorite is Wimbledon – I am British, from London, and love grass-court tennis.
But, like the other three slams, the All England Championship has its pros and cons, which differ depending on whom you speak to.
The biggest con of the player and fan-friendly Australian Open, in my opinion, is definitely the timing of the tournament.
I just don’t understand why the first major of the year has to be in the first month of the year. There are four slams and the first one comes just as the season begins. It’s crazy! There is very little build-up - two weeks of official tournaments - which hurts the anticipation of the tournament, and the scheduling could very well be a factor on the injury front.
The tennis off-season is short enough and the January Australian Open means players have to start preparing in early December. You can’t just take six to eight weeks off and then roll into Melbourne expecting a) to win and b) not to get injured.
The heat is also a major factor. January "Down Under" is the height of the Australian summer and more often than not the tournament’s extreme heat policy goes into effect sometime during the fortnight. The general public is told not to exercise, but the tennis continues, albeit with the bigger names playing under a retractable roof.
In previous years, searing temperatures have dissuaded the fans from turning up which leads to empty seats and tempers the atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The answer it seems is simple. Play the Australian Open later in the year – mid-February would be fine. It would give the players more time to prepare and wouldn’t be quite so hot. Yes, the calendar would have to be changed but not overly so.
While they were at it, the Grand Slam Committee could also agree to add a couple more weeks in between the French Open and Wimbledon to allow the players to have more time to transition from clay to grass.
If football's ruling body FIFA can seriously consider moving the 2022 World Cup to January to avoid Qatar's summer heat, surely tennis can push the first major of the year back a bit? It just makes sense.