Navratilova: Give 'em a break

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Martina Navratilova last night blasted the women's professional tennis tour for the length of its season and the negative impact it is having on the players' health.

"It's the tournament directors who have to get a clue," said the 48-year-old Navratilova, who earlier yesterday at the Rogers Cup combined with her doubles partner, Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld, to defeat Roberta Vinci and Galina Voskoboeva 6-4, 6-2.

"If they want a field of top players, they need to give them a break so they can stay healthy," Navratilova said.

"It's no good for anybody if people are pulling out just before a tournament starts or, even worse, during a tournament, or the day before."

Serena Williams withdrew from the Rogers Cup singles draw yesterday after having played one match. Mary Pierce backed away on Tuesday, while Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova dropped out just before the tourney began at the Rexall Centre.

While Navratilova yesterday turned down a tongue-in-cheek request to become a last-minute entry in the depleted Rogers Cup singles draw, but was not shy about listing the things that she believes are causing the chronic withdrawals.

"The biggest culprit, I think, is not having an off-season," said Navratilova, arguably the greatest player in the history of women's tennis.

"My last few years on the (singles) tour, I didn't play the Australian Open. That was my off-season. I made it. You shouldn't have to forego a Grand Slam event to get enough of a break so that you can recover and get healthy.

"Also, the way the computer rankings are set up now, quantity (is rewarded). As a result, a lot of the players are playing at 80% most of the year. There's always something niggling."

As Navratilova pointed out, during her singles career withdrawals were the exception, not the rule.

"I pulled out, I think, three times during a tournament and about three times before a tournament in my whole career -- and that's probably 500 tournaments," Navratilova said.

"The tournament directors just have to say: 'We have to create an off-season.' Somebody's going to suffer, but it can be done. The whole calendar needs to be revamped.

"It is not acceptable to have that many top players not being able to get well and stay well. It doesn't make sense."

Navratilova acknowledged, however, that this is not a new complaint coming from her lips.

"I've been talking about that for 20 years now," she said.


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