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  Friday, 31 May, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Injuries undermine women's game
Venus Williams wearing a wrist support
Venus's injured wrist made her a major doubt for Paris

The WTA are justifiably proud of the international stars their tour boasts.

The likes of Venus, Serena, Martina, Jennifer and Anna are names recognised the world over, with Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Jelena Dokic fast approaching a similar status.

But as a new generation of power-hitters are changing the way the women's game is played so a glut of injuries threatens to undermine the sport altogether.

A day before she began the defence of her French Open title, Jennifer Capriati calmly stated that there were "not too many" matches she played without pain.


There's so many tournaments spread out throughout the year so there's really no time to just recuperate
Jennifer Capriati

And it isn't just Capriati.

Before the tournament began, two of the top ten women's players were definite non-starters and there were question marks over the fitness of four others, and Capriati was not one of them.

The world number one believes that the increase in injuries is the nature of a fast-developing sport but admitted that the tour schedule was not helpful.

"If it (the injuries) really does get bad, I don't think there's a reason why you can't take time off and take a break," she said.

"But it depends how far you want to go. If you want to be really close there in rankings, you have to keep playing.

Justine Henin
Henin developed a thigh injury before the French Open

"There's so many tournaments spread out throughout the year so there's really no time to just recuperate and you still have to practice and train in the off-time."

Three-times French Open champion Monica Seles, who has endured her fair share of injury problems, voiced grave concerns about the length and intensity of the season.

"The number of tournaments that you have to play to qualify for the rankings are really tough I think year in, year out," she said.

"I have younger players coming up to me and they've been a few years on the tour and they're really tired. Gosh, they should have at least another good five to seven years in them."

Power elite

Both Clijsters and Henin defended the WTA's schedule, despite suffering shock early defeats at Roland Garros due to a combination of injury, lack of fitness and loss of form.

Clijsters put the high injury toll down to the new brand of power-tennis played by the elite exponents.

"You have to see the type of tennis we play. Like also Serena and Venus and Jennifer, there's always a little problem," she said.

Serena Williams
Serena played the Italian Open with a thigh strain

"I don't think tough sport is healthy. Those names I just mentioned, we all play tennis at a very high level.

"Every ball we hit we put a lot of power and a lot of aggression into every shot, into the movement and everything. That will take a lot more out of us than other players."

And the injuries are not the sort of acute problems which a couple of weeks rest will cure.

Martina Hingis has been hampered by ankle problems for two years, and there have been worrying rumours that it could end her career at the age of 21.

Lindsay Davenport's knee injury forced her to miss three months of last season and is yet to make an appearance in 2002 for the same reason.

The WTA will be loathe to cut any tournaments out of their schedule, especially with women's tennis enjoying a boom in popularity.

But their hand may be forced if injuries continue to blight the tour.

After all, a Henin and Clijsters-free Roland Garros could now see a quarter-final between Paola Suarez and Clarisa Fernandez, and there will be few sponsors or spectators prepared to cough up if that pattern continues.

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