When David Ferrer says he is tired you know that the season is too long. The 29-year-old Spaniard, a non-stop bundle of energy, is one of the sport's most durable players, but even he admitted on Saturday that he was feeling exhausted. "I'm very tired," the world No 5 said after his semi-final defeat to Roger Federer here at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. "I want to stop, but I can't because I have the Davis Cup. But I'm really tired."
While Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were preparing themselves for one last effort of the season in last night's final, Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and the other players competing in next weekend's Davis Cup final in Seville between Spain and Argentina are having to drag their aching bodies through one more week.
"I think all the players know the season is very long and is very tough for us," Ferrer said. "We play a lot of tournaments, Davis Cup, ATP tournaments. We finish in December. Now I will play in the Davis Cup. Finally in December I will have only one week to rest and then I will come back in January to play in the new season. We know that and we want to change. We know it's not easy, but we need to change the calendar."
The schedule is changing from next season, but as the new calendar begins in an Olympic year, 2012 promises to be just as demanding for the players. There will be the same number of mandatory tournaments, with the Olympic event shoehorned into the calendar between Wimbledon and the US Open.
A longer off-season is what most of the leading men have been seeking and they will have an extra fortnight off beginning next winter. Two weeks have been taken out of the 2012 schedule after the US Open, including one between the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals.
From next year, the World Tour Finals will begin on a Monday, the day after the Paris final, and finish the following Monday. The field for the season-ending championships comprises the eight players who have earned the most ranking points in the year, which could mean that the field for London will not be known until 24 hours before the tournament starts.
This year, for example, Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Mardy Fish all went to Paris without their London places confirmed. It is by no means impossible that a player will compete in the Paris final next year knowing that he has to win in order to earn his place in the field for the London event starting the next day.
The change in the calendar looks certain to affect the amount of pre-publicity for the London finals. There will presumably be no opportunity for some of the pre-tournament events that have helped to generate interest in the competition in the last two years, including a visit by the players to No 10 Downing Street and a celebrity gala at Battersea Power Station.
Another potential victim of the squeezed calendar will be the Davis Cup. Nearly all the top players have chosen to miss ties in recent years and there are likely to be several notable absentees next year.
The first round of Davis Cup ties comes a fortnight after the Australian Open, when players will be tempted to take a break before the Masters Series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, while the second is scheduled between the spring seasons on hard courts in north America and on clay in Europe. Those players who have had good runs in America will surely be tempted to take some time off before embarking on the busiest period of the year between the start of the clay-court season and the end of Wimbledon.
While the All England Club is confident that its grass courts will recover in time for the Olympics, will the players be ready? The Olympic tournament begins just three weeks after the Wimbledon final and comes at the start of another intense spell of competition. It is followed immediately by back-to-back Masters Series tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati and then a week's break before the US Open. The schedule means that the top players will go straight from grass to hard courts without any opportunity for preparation and acclimatisation.
Nevertheless, from the end of next season players will at last have a decent chance to recharge their batteries in time for the next campaign. The Women's Tennis Association has found that a reduced calendar helps to improve the fitness of players and cuts the number of withdrawals. The Association of Tennis Professionals will be hoping that the men can follow suit.