Injuries rife at Aussie Open despite shorter season

Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:17am EST
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By Simon Cambers

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - When the professional tennis tours decided to shorten their respective seasons a few years ago, it was hoped it would extend the longevity of players at the top and cut down on the number of injuries.

At this year's Australian Open, though, players were once more dropping like flies, denting the draws and leaving the physiotherapists at Melbourne Park severely overworked.

The nine first-round retirements, eight men and one woman, equaled the record for the most retirements or walkovers in a grand slam event.

Many of them, including the withdrawal of Palona Hercog of Slovenia after just one game, were clearly a result of a pre-existing injury.

Others, like Czech Radek Stepanek, suffered an injury early in the match and were unable to finish.

The WTA Tour ends in late October, giving the leading women nine weeks off, while the ATP Tour has a seven-week break after the conclusion of the ATP World Tour Finals in London in early November.

The spate of retirements in Melbourne have led some to question whether players are not taking advantage of the longer break to rest their bodies but instead over-training in the off-season.

It may not be as simple as that.   Continued...

Serena Williams of the U.S. leans on her racquet during her women's singles match against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic