Half of Top 15 WTA Players Injured — Problem? Nah!
by Richard Vach | October 6th, 2006
  • 10 Comments

In each of the last two years, WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott has described the rash of injuries as a “fluke.” Time to make it three, or at least comment on the women’s state of the game, maybe hold a Women’s State of the Union address.

On Thursday, world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo pulled out of Stuttgart with a shoulder injury. On Friday Elena Dementieva pulled with a quad strain. Over in Tokyo Friday, Anabel Madina Garrigues and Paola Suarez retired during matches with injuries.

Stuttgart organizers haven’t vented to the media, but they have to be frustrated this week after more than half the Top 15 women, before or during the event, withdrew with injury. More than half the Top 15. You can’t say that enough to have it sink in — more than half the Top 15 are injured.

Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Serena and Venus Williams, now Mauresmo, Demetieva — all injured.

As “flukes” go, this is an fluke epidemic. Time to trade in Sony Ericsson as the sponsor for maybe WebMD, or an ambulance service.

The injury epidemic over the last few years has been hard to pinpoint since there are so many variables, including the technology advances in racquets, heavier balls, a heavier calendar, possible over-training, etc. The WTA Tour for the most part ignoring the problem over the last couple years has been a health sleight that the players are apparently able to put up with. But now the problem is extensively affecting women’s tennis fans on all continents.

This week Stuttgart fans should be thinking refund, if you compare the actual drawsheet to the pre-tournament publicity and the big names that were promised, and sold the majority of the tickets.

Around this time last year, seven of the Top 11 players were sidelined with injuries or illnesses.

WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott has held firm that the wave of injuries to the women over the last couple years are just happenstance.

“Injuries are a part of every sport,” Scott told Reuters last year. “It is a bit of a flukish that so many players are injured at the same time and I don’t expect this to happen next summer.”

It’s happened again this summer.

This week, with just about every marquee player except Martina Hingis (who took a three-year injury break) out with injury, can we get a WTA Tour update? Something?

I’d rather hear Larry Scott emerge from his office, murmur “Fluke!” to the media then retreat back into WTA headquarters rather than deal with the deafening silence of ignoring the issue.

This is why tennis is historically such a basement-dwelling, poorly-run, rarely-on-TV sport among the ranks of major organizations such as the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the PGA, etc. — the good of the sport always takes a backseat to cash. The WTA making a serious inquiry into player injuries with an independent panel might come back with results that would effect their bottom line — such as players should play less events (which would be less money for the WTA and tournaments), or that someone should put a rein on racquet technology (less money for racquet manufacturers, who have huge sway), or a re-do of the calendar (big headache and additional money woes).

When the ATP announced the Masters Cup would be moving to Shanghai a couple years ago, some voiced ‘What the hell? And that will help the game…how?’ With roughly a 6-to-12-hour difference from many of the major markets, it is a promotional and TV nightmare. The way it is treated in the U.S. sports market, the Masters Cup may as well not exist. The ATP explained at the time that it was an attempt to grow the game in Asia. In reality, it was the almighty dollar that closed the deal, with the flush Asians putting up the most cash. It simply went to the higest bidder amidst a “This is great for the game!” PR blitz.

New-ish ATP Chairman Etienne de Villiers earlier this week was surprisingly bold in assessing the move of the Masters Cup to Shanghai, which came before he entered the picture.

“It’s essential we bring [the Masters Cup] back to Europe,” de villiers said. “In the past, by necessity rather than by design, we’ve gone to cities where the check has been good and it hasn’t necessarily been the right city for the sport.”

Scott, who came to the WTA Tour from the ATP under former CEO Mark Miles, like Miles is a great politician. And there are times tennis needs great politicians. Scott is trying to bring about a calendar re-vamping so there will be less Tier I and II events and a longer off-season, but the going has been rough, and with many tournaments unwilling to budge on their calendar spots, it may not happen. The ATP announced a plan to change the men’s calendar by 2008, then abandoned the plan as too difficult. Change is hard, especially when someone somewhere is going to lose money.

Women’s tennis, mired as it is with injury problems, remains the world’s No. 1 most successful women’s sport, according to statistics. The “Roadmap 2010″ plan and the “One Game” plan and the ATP’s “GAME” plan are great — it’s good to have plans, to know people are thinking about the good of the sport. Right now the WTA needs bold leadership, less chasing dollars, more caretaking of player health and fan satisfaction, less thinking, more doing.

“It’s a fluke” or “We’re working on it” has somehow worked for three years now without serious inquiry, but how long until the revolt by players tired of being injured, and fans tired of buying a ticket because Serena Williams is on the tournament billboard — but then not at the tournament?

 


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10 Comments for Half of Top 15 WTA Players Injured — Problem? Nah!

Vic Ribeiro Says:

Nice Job!


Randy Mauer Says:

GOOD ARTICLE–Shortly before the Williams sisters replaced Hingis at the top of the WTA Martina stated that they would not last there , she said just wait and see. This comes from one who went through the grind and pressure on top to perform and be in too many tournaments. Who would know better? You may ask then how could she do it? THe style of her game obviously. Also experience.
for this reason I sincerely do expect to see her back–ON THE TOP


Elwin (Netherlands) Says:

WTA…..pfff…..bam bam boem zzzzzz


Richard Says:

Randy, I think you are right. The way Martina plays, she could probably play for a long time. Will she consistently beat the heavy hitters on the odd occasions they are healthy? Probably not. But isn’t overall fitness and long term (by that I mean seasonal) health and endurance also a measure of the game? I think so. For that reason, she has a good chance at getting to and staying in the top 5 while the others drop out of tournaments, return, drop out, return, etc. ad nauseum.


David T. Says:

Great Artice!!
What we should do is to pay a mathematician/statistitian to figure out the probability of having so many of the top players out at the same time. Even with the variables involved, it will be easy to come up with an figure so significant that it will finally debunt Scott’s “It’s a FLUKE” answer. Maybe then he’ll be forced to admit it’s all about the $$$. (yeah right!)
You guys think that maybe the WTA makes more money/ increases interest and spectatorship by the mere fact that we no longer know who will win what, and when? There is no longer a top 3 or 4 pool that will dominate all events anymore, and the injuries always keep a good deal of the grandslams open to different possible winners. So now at least people really don’t know who will win and maybe attendance is increased because of it. If, lets say, if Mauresmo was #1 and won every tournamet, I’m sure people would be less inclined to go to every tournament they would have gone to.

I understand that they want to make money and increase viewership, and I do support that. But you can not commit injustices, especially to players health, in order to do so. Without the players there would be no WTA and it is just disrespectful to not want to keep them as healthy as possible.

Next thing you know there’ll be wide spread tounament rigging! (let’s hope not).

Have a great day tennis lovers!!


Aaron Randle Says:

Last time i checked the Williams sisters more or less dominated the game for 3 years. To me thats a considerable amount of time to be on top. And, heres another thing that should be pointed out….they both have more grand slams than Martina. She only made that comment about them not staying on top because she didnt like them, and hated the way they, and we all know it, forced her from the top of the game, and into retirement….And theres no way she’s going back to the top of the game anymore. Just wont happen


Richard Says:

It’s nice to see her (Martina) back and playing in my opinion, though. I really enjoy watching her. I never watched her “back in the day”, as I wasn’t really into tennis then. But I remember watching her earlier this year and wondering who she was because her game was just so different to what I had seen for the previous couple of years. Her ranking at number 8 is pretty good for not having played for three years and only coming back in January.


Dan Says:

Obviously Mr. Randle has not tuned in to women’s tennis much lately. If he had, he would notice that neither Venus, nor Serena Williams has won a Slam in well over a year, much less any other tournament. Serena’s last tournament that she has even been a threat at was the Aussie Open ’05…almost 2 years ago. When I think of a player who has consistently been on top for “a long time” I think of Lindsay Davenport. True, she hasn’t won as many Slams, but the fact that she is 31 and still playing well (and ranked high) is more impressive than a 3-year run. For sure the williams sisters are remarkable players and have done much for the sport, but their style of all or nothing power tennis is not well suited for a long and healthy career.


Aaron Randle Says:

Oh Dan…how irrelevent your comment is now….Today after she beats Henin, Serena WILL reclaim her spot atop the Tennis world


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