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Navratilova looks like a million, in wake of injuries, withdrawals
August 17 2003
Globe and Mail

Let's do a calculation. How many games of tennis with Martina Navratilova at $15,000 a shot would it take for Tennis Canada to make up for the financial effects of the pre-event withdrawals of many top stars, the upset of top-ranked Kim Clijsters and the power blackout in the Toronto area?

The tournament director of the Rogers AT&T Cup, Stacey Allaster, suggested yesterday the fallout from the triple whammy could be more than $1-million.

Last Sunday, at a Tennis Canada gala fundraiser, Michael Blair and Don Darroch of Toronto successfully bid $15,000 in an auction for a half-hour on court with Navratilova.

So Tennis Canada would need roughly 70 half-hours with the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion to recoup its losses. That is a stretch, even for Toronto's tennis-loving well-heeled, and maybe more so for one of the world's fittest 46-year-old women.

The withdrawals of players such as Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova because of injury were largely unavoidable.

Likewise, the power failure was beyond the control of Tennis Canada.

Yesterday, play carried on, even though normal power service wasn't restored. "We have full power serving the site," Allaster said. "All of it is being generated from our on-site generators. We're 100-per-cent self-sufficient."

There were no plans to change. "I think it would be better for us to operate the generators versus taking up power from the city," she added. "It needs it more."

The only variable in the streak of misfortune that has wracked the event that probably could have been avoided was Clijsters's 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 upset by Lina Krasnoroutskaya of Russia.

On Wednesday, basking in her recent ascent to No. 1 in the world, Clijsters blew away Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-1, 6-2.

It was a positive note for the event, a chance to build momentum and credibility based on having the top player, who was, seemingly, in top form.

She declared herself fit and brushed off suggestions playing for a fifth week in a row might be too much.

Just 24 hours later, she was singing a different tune after fading badly in the loss to Krasnoroutskaya. "I didn't have the right preparation when I got here," she said. "So many things have been happening, and the jet lag [from flying in after three tournaments in California]."

It is hard not to criticize Clijsters. The Rogers AT&T Cup is the only Tier One event on the WTA Tour's summer schedule and should not get ill-prepared players arriving from lower-level events.

Surely Clijsters's advisers -- be they agents, coaches or family -- should not have made a schedule that had her playing five weeks non-stop.

Early last year, she suffered a worrisome, ongoing upper arm stress fracture that affected her shoulder. Happily, it got better. But, with that in mind, why would she try to play five weeks in a row, culminating with a trip across the the continent to the most important tournament?

Clijsters has not performed like a No. 1 player at the Grand Slam events this year, losing to Serena Williams after leading 5-1 in the final set at the Australian Open, giving a meek performance in 6-0, 6-4 loss to Belgian compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open final and being unable to put away injured Venus Williams in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss at Wimbledon.

Those results don't flatter her as a competitor. But her guileless decency and warmth make it hard to take her to task.

"After her loss [on Thursday]," Allaster said, "Kim handled herself well. She went and introduced herself to our title sponsor and she sat with their guests and had photos taken. She's going to stick around Toronto for a couple of days, and she gave me her cellphone number and said if there's anything that the tournament needs her to do, just give a call. Not many players would do that."

Clijsters, 20, is a sweet person, but that doesn't mean she hasn't got a lot to learn about being a professional tennis player.
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