NAVRATILOVA blames WTA injury woes on overly condensed schedule

Tuesday, August 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TORONTO (AP) _ Martina Navratilova has a simple explanation for the injuries plaguing women's tennis: all work, no rest.

``We don't have an offseason,'' Navratilova said during a news conference at the dlrs 1.2 million US Rogers AT&T Cup. ``That has been the biggest problem. You have to create your offseason.

``We don't have an off-season where you can take three months off and not worry about anyone else getting ahead and you have to catch up. It's very tricky.''

The AT&T Cup is one of the select nine events that rank just below the Grand Slam competitions in terms of importance on the WTA Tour. But injuries have forced such stars as Switzerland's Martina Hingis (foot), American Lindsay Davenport (wrist), Spain's Conchita Martinez (inflamed Achilles' tendon) and Russian Anna Kournikova (foot) to withdraw.

Navratilova, too, could be forced to pull out of the event, in which she has won four singles titles and three doubles crowns. She's scheduled to play doubles with Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, but her father is currently ill.

``Hopefully everything is OK, but right now I don't know,'' she said.

The curiosity over the decisions by Hingis and Davenport to withdraw came after both played a tournament in California last weekend. Hingis reached the semifinal round, while Davenport won it.

``There are a bunch of reasons why this is happening,'' Navratilova. ``One is that the system, the way it is set up right now, the players are playing more than they want to.

``It's one thing for a player ranked 20th to play 20 tournaments a year, it's another thing for a player ranked No. 2 or No. 3 to do it because you're playing 80, 85 matches and that's just too much.''

Navratilova said the most tournaments she played in a season was 21 in 1978, which was a lot of tennis considering she played both singles and doubles. But in subsequent years, she reduced her schedule to 16 or 17 events annually.

``I think I was the exception rather than the rule,'' said Navratilova, who earned 18 Grand Slam titles, including nine Wimbledon crowns, before retiring from singles action in 1994. ``I think I pulled out of maybe six tournaments my whole career.

``But I was in exceptional shape and never really had any bad problems with my body. You see kids now in the training room and they're 17 years old. They're in the training room more than I am.''