Mac slams absent stars

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Perhaps it is because he always had an affinity for this country, which he showed by playing in the Canadian Open 16 times in his brilliant career.

But tennis legend John McEnroe held nothing back yesterday when asked about the rash of withdrawals from this week's $1.34 million U.S. Rogers Cup at the Rexall Centre.

"It is an epidemic in the women's game," McEnroe said prior to playing in a Legends exhibition with Jim Courier, Anna Kournikova and Canadian Carling Bassett-Seguso last night.

"It's unbelievable how much this is happening with the women. I don't think there's anyone who can say it's not a problem."

McEnroe has never been one to hold back in his opinions, of course, and isn't beyond seeking shock value.

(On comparing himself to Kournikova, for example, he said "I don't see a lot of similarity other than our (butt.)"

But when it comes to Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis and two-time champion Amelie Mauresmo all pulling the chute this week, McEnroe has little patience.

"I felt like there was the expectation of people wanting you to come, I tried to at least give it a go even if I wasn't 100 per cent," McEnroe said. "I just felt that it would come back to you in the end and people would respect that."

McEnroe said the tour system is flawed because too many players go to an extreme making sure they are as healthy as possible for the U.S. Open later in August.

"The way it's set up (now), when you play three, four weeks in a row (players) are thinking they want to peak at the Open," McEnroe said.

"So if something happens that throws that preparation off, then these are the type of tournaments that get burned and it's unbelievable how much this is happening in the women's game."

Kournikova was far more diplomatic, merely calling it "a no-win situation," and offering an enlightening "stuff happens" with regards to the cancellations.

As for her reputation of earning a name largely on her looks and sex appeal rather than her accomplishments, the 26-year-old Russian makes no apologies.

"If it wouldn't be me, it would be somebody else," said Kournikova, who has been retired for four years. "I happened to be in the right place at the right time and have the complete package.

"I wouldn't have a life if I didn't play tennis. I'd probably be cleaning toilets in Russia."


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