Masters of the game?
It is that time of the year again, when the 8 best tennis players in the world congregate, to play the final event in the calendar, aptly called the "Masters". Like I wrote last time, this event should actually be for the best players in the world and not turn out to be a misnomer. The ATP, of course has a strange rule of automatically entering "grand slam" winners into this event, regardless of consistency or ranking points. Last year it was Gaston Gaudio. This year it is Marat Safin. I had made a strong case against the former, but on hindsight, the guy had at least managed to win a few tournaments besides Roland Garros. This time it is even more pathetic! Safin has been reeling under injuries and a slump in form (pardon the understatement) and one can safely presume that even if he does make it to the masters (he withdrew from this weeks TMS Paris) , he will be there to make up the numbers. Not done! Not when it is the premier event in the calendar, which is in question. There is no questioning the class and caliber of Marat Safin. Along with Federer, he is arguably the most talented player on the tour and one of the last true "characters". At his best, he would definitely have posted a major threat to the Swiss, who is now enjoying an almost unchallenged run at the top . But "could've and would've" are speculatory terms and Marat - as much as we love (or hate) him for being Marat - has been too temperamental and off the wall for his own good. It is a pity, but it is true. This rule of automatic qualification should be done away with, and the logic I guess, need not be explained. If at all, the ATP wants to give weightage to Grand Salms, it can consider performances over all the four put together and not just one. At least that will gurantee a 9 month period (Jan - Sep) over which a player is being judged and prevent two weeks' performance to gurantee a place in the masters. Otherwise, there's a possibility that we'll continue to have have punching bags (like Gaudio last year) in a tournament which you want to be as toughly contested as possible. -BB