PARIS (Reuters) – Tournament demands are jeopardizing the health of players in the women’s game, former world No. 1 Monica Seles said on Tuesday.
Seles warned that the sport’s governing body — the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) — must strike a delicate balance between satisfying tournament officials and protecting their top players if they are to avert the crisis.
The never-ending tennis calendar has meant that big names like Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport are absent from this year’s French Open after undergoing surgery, while the likes of Venus and Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are all carrying injuries into the tournament.
“The tour will have to look at that (the schedule) because, looking at Martina and Lindsay, these are really young players who are having very serious surgeries,” said Seles after her 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 first-round win over Spain’s Angeles Montolio.
But Seles agreed that authorities faced a difficult task because tennis is now big business and the WTA — under increasing pressure from sponsors and tournament promoters — will lose out financially if player schedules are reduced.
“All those tournaments that were with us, when women’s tennis wasn’t popular, stuck with us. I think it would be very unfortunate to cut them out right now,” she said.
“Their (WTA) job is to find the balance so that you’re protecting the players. Hopefully the tour … will make some adjustments.”
With a yearly rolling ranking system in women’s tennis, players are often compelled to hobble from one tournament to the next in search of valuable ranking points and this has caused widespread injuries, according to Seles.
“It’s a very grueling schedule. The number of tournaments that you have to play to qualify for the rankings are really tough I think year in, year out,” said the No. 6 six.
“I have younger players coming up to me and they’ve been a few years on the tour and they’re really dead tired.
“(At that stage) they really should have at least another good five to seven years in them.”
Seles’s comments echo those of former French Open champion Iva Majoli of Croatia, who said on Monday that the grueling schedule was to blame for the current injury crisis in the women’s game.
Majoli, a surprise champion at Roland Garros in 1997, was sidelined for more than two years with a shoulder injury.