London: Top players threatening to strike in protest against a crowded schedule should stop living in a dream world, according to former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich.

No dream world: Rafael Nadal (left) and Andy Murray after Nadal won their US Open 2011 semi-final match. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

The jam-packed calendar has long been an issue and leading players will meet at the 2011 Shanghai Rolex Masters in October to discuss their grievances. However, Stich believes they have little to complain about.

“I don’t think it’s a big issue," the German, who won Wimbledon in 1991, told BBC. “I think the players forget that all the tournaments out there provide them with jobs. They are not playing more than 10 or 15 years ago. It’s just like they are running after exhibitions, they are trying to make more money and don’t even fulfil their commitments to the smaller tournaments sometimes.

“They have a shorter season than we used to have. I played singles, doubles and you look at guys like Stefan Edberg—they played singles and doubles at Grand Slams and they never complained, they loved it, it was their job.

“Murray doesn’t even play four rounds of Davis Cup throughout the year. It’s not down to the tournaments and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), it’s down to the players themselves. Perhaps they need to look out for their bodies and pick their tournaments better?

“They seem to want to play less but have more prize money and have more influence on the schedule. It’s not a dream world out there, it’s a job and if you take that on, you have to deal with the situations you find."

Stich, who also won the Wimbledon and Olympic doubles titles, said a crowded tournament schedule allowed lower-ranked players to earn a living. “They should never forget that it’s a partnership," added Stich. “If they go on strike, they should think what happens if the tournaments went on strike because they wouldn’t have a job, no income and no career.

“They should get into discussions that are reasonable, which is happening, but to go on strike is not a good solution."

Currently, top-ranked players are obliged to play all four Grand Slams, eight Masters Series events, the Barclays ATP World Tour finals should they qualify and a handful of smaller ATP tournaments. On top of that, they also have Davis Cup commitments to their countries.

Things came to a head this month at the US Open when bad weather forced players in the bottom half of the draw, which featured both Murray and Rafael Nadal, to play three singles matches in three days just to reach the semi-finals.

While there was little anyone could do to stop the rain, Murray said he felt the sport’s organizers needed to listen to the concerns of players over the schedule. “If we come up with a list of things we want changed, and everyone is in agreement but they don’t happen, then we need to have some say in what goes on in our sport. At the moment we don’t," Briton Murray said on Monday.

“We’ll sit down, talk about it with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and International Tennis Federation (ITF), see if they will come to a compromise and, if not, we’ll go from there.

“We just want things to change, really small things. Two or three weeks during the year, a few less tournaments each year, which I don’t think is unreasonable," he said.

India’s Somdev Devvarman joined the players in protesting against the schedule. “A lot of people were talking about it and what happened at the US Open just stirred it up," he said in Delhi on Tuesday. “It’s not just scheduling and the way it’s being run, the players are underpaid."

Last November, ATP chief Adam Helfant announced that the season would be trimmed by two weeks and a seven-week off-season will be in place from 2012. This year, world No. 2 Nadal could find himself playing in December in the Davis Cup final with the 2012 season beginning less than a month later.


PTI contributed to this story.

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