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Djokovic backs call for Australian Open date change

DEFENDING champion Novak Djokovic has backed calls for the Australian Open to be moved from January to February, saying the current timeslot was putting players' health at risk.

The Serbian world number three said the top players were at risk of burning out because of the length of the season and the Australian Open was suffering as a result.

"I think players need more attention because health is coming in the matter of question," Djokovic told reporters after his 6-4 7-6 loss to Jarkko Nieminen at the Sydney International today.

"You have a lot of pull-outs (at the Australian Open) and you don't want to see that as a sponsor of the tournament or as a fan, that some of the top players in the top 10 are not coming to your events."

Djokovic is just the latest in a long line of players demanding the Australian Open be moved back when the weather is cooler and also to give them a longer break.

In the days before easy jet travel, the top players in Europe and the United States preferred to stay at home rather than undertake the lengthy journey.

Even now, the top players are regularly missing and the problem is made worse by Australia's scorching summer heat where on-court temperatures often exceed 45 degrees Celcius.

Former world number one Martina Navratilova famously described the Australian Open as dangerous, writing in a newspaper column: "It could take someone dying before things will change but I firmly believe the Australian Open should be put back a month until at least February."

Earlier this week, Roger Federer renewed calls for a change of dates and Djokovic said he agreed with the Swiss.

"Tennis is by far the longest season in sport and I think we should do something about it in the future," he said.

"It's not only about the players. It's about the tournaments. It's about a lot of things. Hopefully we can make an agreement."

Australian Open organizers have been reluctant to move the tournament but agreed to move the event back a week in 2007, only to change their mind and revert back to the original dates.

Djokovic said he understood the enormous difficulties in changing the dates but hoped a solution could be found.

"I don't think you can change everything from the start, from the bottom, because it takes a lot of energy and work," he said.

"As I said, it's not only about the players... there is a lot of tradition and history everywhere around the world.

"The thing is that if you want to see the top players performing on the high level on every tournament, then we have to make an adjustable schedule."


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