Every sport has specific seasons that are more popular. Generally speaking, indoor sports work better in the winter, while outdoor sports are in the spring, summer, and fall. Tennis is one of those sports without a defined season, so how do most people view it?
Is tennis a fall or spring sport? Tennis is played throughout the world in the spring, summer, and fall, but most people label it as a spring sport over a fall sport. A lot of high schools and colleges in the United States will have the most important matches in the spring, and even the pro season starts to heat up around that time.
How Tennis Has Evolved Into A 12-Month Sport
Professional tennis players have one of the shortest off-season in any sport. Pro matches are still being played well into November, and the start of the new year is in early January. The reason why the season is so long is that the tour goes to places where it is warm all the time.
It would be nearly impossible to get people excited for a huge tennis tournament in the United States in the winter. Almost every location will be cold, and indoor tennis just doesn’t draw in the same amount of fans. Even though more indoor tennis courts exist than ever before, tennis is still seen as an outdoor sport.
That’s why the season starts in Australia and Asia during the winter months. Almost all the tournaments early on in the year take place in the southern hemisphere, or very warm clients can still hold tournaments at that time.
US Season Starts In The Spring
By the spring, it moves to the southern part of the United States and other generally warmer areas. Some players stick with hard court tournaments as long as possible, while others will transfer to the clay-court season right away if they are more comfortable on that surface.
Summer tennis can be played just about anywhere in the northern hemisphere because the weather is usually nice enough to accommodate everyone. The biggest tournaments in the early summer take place in Europe, before shifting back to North America in the late summer
By the fall, tournaments need to be a little pickier, but indoor courts make their appearance around this time. There is an Asian swing, as well as an indoor season. The ATP and WTA Finals are often held in cold cities, so the final tournament is held entirely indoors. Since it is a small draw, it is easier to figure out all the logistics.
What Is The Busiest & Least Busy Part Of The Pro Season?
When examining the professional tennis season, it’s important to look at the timing of the 4 Grand Slams. These are the most important tournaments of the year, every single year. Those eight weeks, plus the few weeks leading up to those Grand Slam events, are the most important and busiest times of the year.
This is the time where every healthy player will be playing, no matter what. They understand that there is a lot of points and prize money on the line, so missing any of these tournaments could put a huge damper on a player’s season, their ranking, and even their career.
The Busiest Part Of The Season
Perhaps the busiest time of the schedule for both the men and the women ranges from the end of May to the beginning of July. During that time, players start at the French Open on red clay courts. It is the final clay-court event of the season, and the surface leads to slow, drawn-out points. Many view this as the most grueling Grand Slam tournament of the four due to the style of play.
Unlike the other majors during the year, players can’t take a break from tennis to recover from the French Open once it is over. That’s because the grass-court season is extremely short, but also important. Making the transition from clay court to grass court is very challenging, so playing at least one warm-up tournament is necessary. Since there are only a few weeks between the two events, it doesn’t leave much time for any player to take a rest.
Only a very select few players can actually opt to play one of the tournaments, and pass on the other to take care of the body. The most recent example is Roger Federer. His body was dealing with a number of ailments, and he realized his game is much more suited for grass. He started skipping clay court season altogether to focus on the rest of the season.
The Non-Busiest Parts Of The Season
For casual tennis viewers, anything after the U.S. Open isn’t considered a high priority. While that isn’t entirely true, there is about a month of action at smaller tournaments for both the men and the women until things heat up again.
This is a great opportunity for players who didn’t have a great summer to pick up some much-needed points at the end of the year. Top players are more likely to pull out of these events, especially if they are satisfied with how their Grand Slam tournaments went.
Another dead part of the season comes earlier in the year, directly after the Australian Open. Players spend all January playing events and getting ready for the first Grand Slam, then finish it off in Melbourne. The next big tournament doesn’t take place until March in Indian Wells.
Players will take their time making the trek from Australia to the United States during that time. They might just opt to play 1-2 tune-up events so that they are sharp for the back-to-back competitive tournaments in California and Florida.
The Future Of The Professional Tennis Seasons
Players across all sports are becoming more and more aware of taking care of the body. Instead of grinding in tournaments 10 or 11 months out of the year, every single week, top-ranked players are picking in choosing their spots. In essence, they are shortening the season, only doing it themselves instead of waiting on tennis officials.
This has posed a problem with players skipping certain parts of the season, or pulling out because of lingering injuries they don’t have the time to heal. One solution is to shorten the season, at least by one month. By ending in October, this will give a longer offseason to tennis players.
Another option that is thrown around is a break in the summer at some point. It would likely have to come right after Wimbledon, as the season is too packed with the French Open just a month before that. The major tournaments are not going to be shifted around. Players might not like the idea of missing a month of action before jumping into preparation for the U.S. Open either.
It isn’t an extremely urgent issue just yet, but something that is on the radar of tournament directors around the world. No one wants to be the tournament that a majority of top players skip. If the top players don’t work, it can impact the tournament’s finances significantly.
A Look At The Amateur Season
To be successful in tennis, players need to train all year round. However, the technical season of tennis usually takes place in the spring. This goes for high school and college players in the United States, as schools view it as a spring sport.
By making it a spring sport, the most important matches of the season will generally take place with better weather. It does lead to some pretty cold early-season matches, but it’s better to do that than have called postseason matches.
At colleges, they will still have tournaments here and there in the fall and even the winter. The fall is usually a great time for less experienced players to get some knowledge and experience playing at the highest level. In the winter, that is considered the indoor season. Teams from the north especially will go play each other indoors, or go to the south where the weather is a little bit better.
Spring Is The Most Important Season
Once the spring season starts, that is what matters the most for individual players and schools. High school tournaments are extremely intense, and the college finals in the United States are now held each year at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida. The National Champions in the spring are what teams hold in high regard, even if there are trophies presented for the winter indoor season.
During the summer months, players away from school are mostly allowed to do their own thing. Depending on the skill level of players, the goal is to increase individual rankings and prepare for the next amateur season.
The summer is also when some of the best amateur players decide on whether they should turn professional or not. There are pros and cons for a lot of players who aren’t viewed as bonafide superstars. Scholarship money to go to top universities can often outweigh the amount of prize money a lower-level pro takes home after paying for expenses.
In high school and college tennis, a player does not have to worry about paying for travel, coaching, meals, and more. They can focus on becoming better and better at tennis, and furthering their education as a sound backup plan.
The Importance Of An Offseason Period
One of the biggest concerns for a lot of people who follow tennis consistently is the fact that so many people treat tennis as a sport that is played 365 days out of the year. While it takes a lot of time and effort to be very good at tennis, it is one sport that leads to burnout more than many others out there.
Some factors go beyond just the season when it comes to tennis burnout as well. The fact that it is a very lonely sport for players, constantly competing by themselves, leads to a lot of internal struggles for players. Things can be going great during the winning streaks, but a person is constantly searching for answers when they are losing.
It’s recommended to take some periodic breaks for amateur players. During this time, a player can focus on another sport, or they can focus on fitness. This allows the body to recover from the constant grind.
Tennis is very tough on the body, especially if a person is playing at Hardcourts consistently. This also frees up the mind a bit, shifting the focus to something else. Everyone should have multiple passions in life, as focusing on one single thing is often considered unhealthy.
Will Tennis Ever Become Truly Seasonal Again?
The simple answer: no. There is too much on the line as far as scholarship money goes. For some, the dreams are much higher. Grand slam prize money and endorsements are up for grabs. Players are training more than ever before, and willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top.
This isn’t just an issue with tennis, but all sports. Tennis is very dependent on a specific skill set, and even the most naturally gifted athletes have trouble adjusting in the beginning. It takes years of practice to get to a certain level where a person can realistically become a professional.
To get around colder climates that have defined the seasons, top-level players are moving to warmer parts of the world so they can train all year round. It’s a challenging balance, especially for those players that don’t make it. After putting in years and years of training without any break, it could leave some individuals with no backup plan if that falls through.
If the tennis season ever truly becomes defined slightly more, it will have to start at the top. That means shortening up the ATP and WTA schedules, proving to young parents and coaches that balance is necessary.