Yesterday I posted the first part of my discussion on Bernard Tomic and in that discussion I talked about the need for Bernie to return to tennis at ‘100% fitness’.
This is, I must admit, is a highly ambiguous statement.
What do I mean by 100% fitness?
On the face of it, it seems I am arguing that no player should ever step onto court unless they are at their utmost prime to play.
They should play every match, every week without the slightest niggle, strain or fatigue.
This isn’t realistic, though, is it? And, yet I do still use and stand by the statements I made in my last post.
I think I need to explain.
Is ‘100% fit’ a statement we should take at face value? Should we take it literally?
The short answer to this is ‘No’.
This post has in been inspired by a series of tweets I saw yesterday from @theoverrule.
Clearly, @theoverrule dislikes those who argue for players to be ‘100% fit’ before playing. I do think that @theoverrule and I are actually on the same page, though.
A quick look at the ATP Calendar for 2014 and you see around 69 tournaments listed for this year.
The calendar begins with Brisbane, beginning 29/12 and ending with Davis Cup beginning 21/11.
The WTA has roughly 58 events, also beginning with Brisbane and ending with Sofia beginning 28/10.
These are very long seasons indeed.
Obviously, many of these events overlap and it’s impossible for players to play every event, but many players play 20+ tournaments a year.
Clearly, to be ‘100% fit’ for the entire season is nigh on impossible.
From the long list of injuries currently running through the ranks of professional tennis, we can also see that as the game gets more physically demanding, players fitness levels get more affected.
So, what level of fitness should we then expect from professional players, especially if we accept that ‘100%’ is somewhat of a misnomer?
I think what we should expect from players is a level of fitness that enables them to be competitive.
I think it’s fair to ask players to step onto court with a level of fitness that will allow them to complete the match, but this statement is also fraught with all sorts of dangers.
Apart from the fact, that as uber competitive individuals, professional athletes not only have an undeniably strong desire to compete, but the bottom line, this is their livelihoods.
Professional athletes often straddle the difficult position of the need to compete at the time and the need to nurture their future careers.
There is no point in putting yourself at the threat of career threatening, or worse, career ending injuries.
But deciding the moment when it is best to ‘pull the pin’, so to speak, must be one of the hardest decisions an athlete has to make.
There is, though, no doubt when that decision is taken out of the player’s hand and it is simply impossible to continue on, perhaps, al la Delpo and his wrist earlier this year.
The term ‘100% fit’ has definitely taken on a new meaning in modern sports.
It no longer possible to expect tennis players or any other athlete, for that matter, to be 100%, fit all of the time, but it is fair to expect to see them competitive.
I suspect this is where fan’s frustrations lie.
Fans build up their excitement at the possibility of seeing their favourite players play or at what they perceive will be a fantastic match.
The disappointment at then witnessing professional tennis players play when they should never have taken to the court, can then be quite overwhelming.
This does not excuse the poor behaviour of fans. Those familiar to this blog will know I don’t condone such as base behaviour.
Finding that balance between being fit enough to play and knowing to withdraw will always be difficult and contentious but a good starting point may be this: it is fair to expect players to take the court with enough fitness to be competitive.