Baseline rallies often lasting much longer than a minute. Players eliminated due to injuries or hobbled by debilitating cramps. Grueling five-set matches. Is it possible that the U.S. Open men soon might find that playing at the year’s final Grand Slam, a hard court event, is as physically demanding as playing on the French Open’s slow red clay?…

As Week 1 nears an end, some key stats at this final best-of-five-set event are beginning to look a lot like those at the French Open. For example, more than a dozen early round matches were extended to five sets. Happens all the time at the French Open. Injuries and cramps kept the tour trainers busier than medics in a war zone. See a lot of that, too, at Roland Garros.

“A couple of times, I called the trainer, he called the trainer,” said Novak Djokovic, who outlasted Radek Stepanek 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) in a four hour, 44-minute second round match.”You could see that we have a lack of energy, but we were fighting all the time. We play the longest match in Open (this year) and it was quality match as well.”

The medics, er, make that trainers, also worked overtime Thursday night when No. 6 James Black outdueled France’s Fabrice Santoro in a five-set, second round thriller. Santoro, 34, struggled with cramps throughout the last two sets. Veteran Tim Henman (back), who soon will retire, and even youngster Rafael Nadal (knees), a 22-year-old Spaniard, came into the U.S. Open hampered by injuries.

Referring to Nadal, Henman said, “When you’re built like that, playing on hard courts, (injuries) are inevitable. His game is physically so demanding. He’s putting so much strain on his body. He’s got to manage it as best he can, as I’m sure he will.”

Nadal, bothered by tendinitis in both knees managed to get past Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic quickly Friday night, mainly because Tipsarevic, who received trainer assistance, couldn’t continue due to a rib injury. Nadal advanced to the third round, defeating Tipsarevic 6-2, 6-3,3-2 (retired).

With more quality matchups expected in the later rounds, Week 2 also should produced longer baseline rallies, more grueling tests of stamina, and, of course, more court time for trainers.

One possible long range solution: just as the Marines always are in search of a few good men, tennis academy gurus should focus a bit on developing a few more good serve-and-volleyers Contrasting styles make for interesting matchups, artistry and shorter matches, which might mean longer pro careers.
One short-range solution for fans: bring pillows.