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tennisrox
Dec 16th, 2005, 11:20 AM
Missing in action
By Tom Fordyce


Women's tennis has a big problem: its stars are missing.


WTA urged to cut tour

Serious injury robbed Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin-Hardenne and the Williams sisters of long chunks of last season, while Kim Clijsters says she will retire in 2007 - aged just 24 - because of the strain on her body.

On Tuesday, former world number one Tracy Austin told BBC Sport that the women's game would be left in crisis if the WTA refused to act.

A generation ago, women's stars could expect to enjoy careers stretching into their 30s. So why are today's players so vulnerable to injury?

Former Great Britain Davis Cup physio Mark Bender explains all.


THE SERVE
"The top women's serves today are more powerful and robust - an attacking weapon, like in the men's game," says Bender.

"If you go back a few years to before the Williams' sisters and definitely before the eastern European girls started coming through, the serve was just a way of starting the point in the women's game.

"Players would use a lot of slice and only rarely go for a hard, booming first serve.

"Now, rather than just popping the ball over, they're getting a lot of air, jumping up and using their whole bodies to generate more torque on the ball.

"The change in that alone has resulted in much more load going through their legs, back, shoulders - and that makes injuries much more likely."

Case study: Maria Sharapova's back injury


THE GROUNDSTROKES
"On both their forehands and backhands, the women have followed the men in adopting a more open stance," explains Bender.

"That puts a lot more load on their dominant leg.

"So if you're a right-handed player, by putting more load through your right leg you get a lot more rotating forces through that leg, which massively loads up the knee, hip and back on that side.

"The previous, more closed-style of playing groundstrokes may not have generated the same power on the ball, but at least it was easier on a player's body.

Henin hit by hamstring injury

"The rallies too are now a lot longer. Rather than playing serve and volley, virtually all the girls are standing at the back for most of the points, with the result that you're seeing rallies that are 20-30% longer than they used to be."

Case study: Justine Henin-Hardenne's knee and hamstring injuries


WEIGHT-TRAINING
"A few years ago, there was no-one but Agassi doing any weight-training on the men's tour during the season," says Bender.


Sharapova was hit by back and chest injuries in '05

"But for the past three years, it's become de rigueur for them all to do power and strength conditioning during the season.

"The women have followed suit. A lot of the women's coaches are ducking and diving between the men's and women's tours, and they will use whatever experience they can to give their athlete an edge.

"That means the women players are now doing a lot of bench presses, military presses and Olympic-style powerlifting to enhance their power - because they're now playing a power game.

Chest injury forces Sharapova out

"This sort of weights work, especially when you're combining it with intense matches mid-tour, puts new strains on the women."

Case study: Maria Sharapova's pectoral injury


THE SCHEDULE
"It seems to be the top 20 players who are out injured more often," says Bender.

"That may well be because the fine line they walk between playing enough matches to maintain their ranking points, and then overdoing it and injuring themselves. They're constantly on that edge.

"To keep your ranking high, you have to at least keep repeating what you achieved the previous season.

Clijsters to quit

"There is also a long American hard-court season, both after the Australian Open and in the build-up to the US Open.

"And the hard courts put a lot more pressure on all of the players."

Case study: Kim Clijsters' decision to retire in 2007


THE SUPPLEMENT PROBLEM
"Female athletes, because of the menstrual cycle, need to have their nutrition absolutely perfect," reveals Bender.

"They need to make sure their zinc and magnesium levels are really well looked after, because if you're a female athlete and your levels of those minerals are poor, that will both affect your ability to recover from injury and increase the chances of you developing chronic soft-tissue injuries.

"A lot of the top players will have access to nutrition, but there's the anxiety about what supplements they can take.

Virus hit Henin's hopes

"The WTA has a very specific list of the type of supplements the players can and can't take, so the players can't just go to the counter at a high-street chemists and get ordinary zinc or magnesium supplements. They're restricted in what they can take.

"And at the level these guys are working at, you can't get what you need from an ordinary diet.

"You need supplements. Without them, it puts an extra strain on their bodies."

Case study: Justine Henin-Hardenne's problems with a virus - falling ill and being unable to recover is far more likely if your body is run-down


MENTAL BURNOUT
"There is an emotional and physical burnout that occurs when you've been thrown into intensive training from before puberty," says Bender.

"By the time such players hit their early 20s, they're dying to go out and have a normal life.

"They have all the trappings of success, but no opportunity to enjoy it.

Serena's priorities change

"And mental burnout has an effect on the physical side of things. If you're feeling tired and a bit down, on the court grinding it out every week, it has a big effect."

Case study: Serena Williams' desire to move into acting and fashion

goldenlox
Dec 16th, 2005, 03:38 PM
The top players are going to have to learn to play fewer events, and take a few days off.
They don't know how to make a schedule.

But there should be tournaments all year long.

IceHock
Dec 16th, 2005, 03:46 PM
would u rather watch a 50 mph serve or a 110 mph serve . who cares it makes the game better and the only one who said she was rewtiring is clijsters but come on if she wins more slams she aint retirin. tracy austin is retarded.wta is not in a crisis with all the up and comers and the comebackplayers wta is fine

tennisrox
Dec 16th, 2005, 03:51 PM
Who cares,it makes the game better?? :speakles:

When half the players spend most of their time injured I hardly think it makes for better viewing.I don't think you can drastically change the game,but maybe make some changes to the points
system,and limit the number of tournaments that players are allowed to play.Maybe shortening the hardcourt season would be a good idea.Goldenlox is right.The top players don't know how to make a schedule,but they are under so much pressure to defend points that I can hardly blame them.

LH2HBH
Dec 16th, 2005, 05:31 PM
The players make their own schedule. This is simply a case of over-extending your self to stay a few extra points ahead of the next girl. They need to take responsibility for their own careers and bodies.

fammmmedspin
Dec 16th, 2005, 08:18 PM
At least it explains why injuries occur more (though Graf hardly just pushed the ball in I suppose she was injured a lot too)

Not much link though to how much players play though - the main thrust is that how they play injures them and it might do that anytime however often they played before.

fammmmedspin
Dec 16th, 2005, 08:27 PM
The top players are going to have to learn to play fewer events, and take a few days off.
They don't know how to make a schedule.

But there should be tournaments all year long.

if you look for players at the 2006 Hopman or at 2006 Sydney or at how many tournaments people played last year or who had months off, its pretty clear that most of the top players have already done this. The exceptions are the relatively injury free ones like Dementieva and Schnyder - and not wacking in 115mph serves may explain some of that as well as their need to get into the YEC which probably tired them out by the end of the year. Interestingly its money and exhibitions (Hong kong) that are drawing more top players out in early 2006 rather than anything to do with the tour - its money not points that explain why a lot of the top ten will be playing while Nastya and the others shortening their season are still on their break.

tennisrox
Dec 17th, 2005, 07:43 AM
At least it explains why injuries occur more (though Graf hardly just pushed the ball in I suppose she was injured a lot too)

Not much link though to how much players play though - the main thrust is that how they play injures them and it might do that anytime however often they played before.

Graf could definitely pound the ball,but she didn't suffer too many injuries,apart from the serious knee injury she sustained towards the end of her career.
The reason she could play a packed schedule over a long career was the superb mechanics of her shot production.Her forehand may have looked bizarre,but the alignment of her muscles,and joints was perfect to result in the least possible strain.Her swing was incredibly dynamic,and her timing impeccable,so she could generate the power with relatively less effort compared to most.Her balance and footwork was top-class.In addition she was a natural athlete,very light on her feet,speedy,and perfectly built to sustain the strain of the tour.Her bone-muscle mass ratio was ideal,and she was very economical in her movements.
One of the other reasons, is the fact that point construction was very different in her days.There was more variety,and less consistent power than today.The new racquets,and stances are in a way responsible for many of the problems.

KimC&MariaSNo1's
Dec 17th, 2005, 08:17 AM
i think its exaggerated quite abit