LOS ANGELES — Former men's star and current TV analyst John McEnroe said Thursday that there should be fewer events for female pro tennis players because they seem to be unable to deal with the physical and mental demands.
"Women have it better in tennis than any other sport, but you shouldn't push them to play more than they're capable of playing," McEnroe said in a conference call promoting CBS's U.S. Open coverage. "… They should be required to be in less events. … It seems it takes an actual meltdown on the court or women quitting the game altogether before they realize there's a need to change the schedule."
Vera Zvonareva wept at last year's U.S. Open and tried to tear off knee bandages during a match. Prominent players such as Kim Clijsters and former No. 1 Justine Henin have taken breaks from the game over the past five years.
Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA Tour, is mindful of scheduling issues and noted that Serena Williams will be absent from this U.S. Open not because of a chronic injury but because of an accident that resulted in a cut foot. "John is more than entitled to his opinion," she told the Los Angeles Times, "and he is a well-respected leader in our sport, but I hope when someone makes comments he's also looking at the data. Venus is 30, and she is very careful with her body because she wants to continue to play. … We're always looking at the schedule and requirements, and looking out for what's best for the players."
In response to players' requests, Allaster said the schedule already has been trimmed from 26 to 20 events. The top players are asked to play in at least 10.
"We did that because we knew the game has changed,'' Allaster had previously told the St. Petersburg Times. "The physical demands on the athletes' bodies was making them break down. We couldn't deliver the top-10 player field to those 26 tournaments. We had to streamline."
Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.