Federer pushes for change to Open timing

Count Roger Federer among those who'd like to see the Australian Open pushed back to a February start.

updated: January 15, 2009 18:43 IST
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Count Roger Federer among those who'd like to see the Australian Open pushed back to a February start.

Federer, playing his regular tuneup at an exhibition event at Kooyong, said one of his objectives since becoming president of the ATP Players' Council is to work on the tournament schedule.

"We had a lot of conversations trying to fix men's tennis in some ways," Federer said of the council. "Definitely the calendar is always something we do talk about.

"I guess to fix the Australian Open problem, you know, having more tournaments beforehand ... to move it backwards a couple of weeks, so you have more of an Australian swing coming, and maybe also the Middle Eastern tournaments."

Federer played an exhibition at Abu Dhabi, which featured six of the Top 10 players, and the Qatar Open at Doha to start his season before arriving in Melbourne for the Jan. 19-Feb. 1 Australian Open.

The January timeslot for the season's first major has been problematic for players.

Apart from the qualifiers for the season-ending Masters Cup and the Davis Cup final, which start in late November, most players have most of the last two months of the year off tournament play.

At the start of the year, there's limited tournaments _ Doha, Chennai, Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland as well as exhibitions _ to fine tune for a major.

The heat at the height of the Australian summer and the lack of match condition contributes to niggling injuries.

To give the top players more lead-in time, Federer suggested moving the Dubai forward from February to January and having it back-to-back with the other Gulf tournament at Doha.

The men's and women's tours have made moves to condense the season over recent years to appease top players.

But organizers of the Australian Open have resisted pushing the major back because it is scheduled toward the end of the national summer holidays and attracts more than 600,000 fans across two weeks.

The time slot also means tennis does not compete locally with Australian Rules Football, which starts its pre-season in February.