The odds of a schedule change remain remote.
“If you were starting from scratch, in a perfect world, it would be held in the first week of February,” Gilbert said, creating room for a Masters 1000 or two 500-level tournaments in January. But any change now creates myriad logistical issues. “It took 40 years to get that extra week added between the French Open and Wimbledon.”
Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia and the Australian Open tournament director, said in a statement that while there had been debate about moving the tournament to March, “given our tremendous growth, the incredible quality of play from the athletes and the absence of a compelling reason for a move it is fair to say it has not seriously been contemplated in recent years.”
While the tournament draws fans from Asia, Simon says, January is the end of Australia’s summer vacation, so that exerts a certain power. And, he added, such a drastic shift would not only be a logistical challenge but would also bump established tournaments in other cities, harming businesses there.
He also said that starting the year with a Slam served the entire sport “because it gets everybody excited about tennis early on.”
The ATP Cup solves some problems on the men’s side, Thiem said. (Tiley is exploring a similar event with the WTA.)
“If you play a normal tournament and have a bad day, you can have just one match and then go to Melbourne not really knowing where you are,” he said. “The ATP Cup is amazing because it guarantees you three matches against top players.”
However, plenty of players are excluded from the ATP Cup, and Gilbert wonders how the older players will feel if they have to play six tough matches through the ATP final and then go into the Australian Open tired.