20170903

TENNIS

In a career on the regular tour spanning 17 years (turned pro in 1985), Arantxa Sanchez Vicario announced in 2002 to a "packed press conference near her native Barcelona, Spain" that "it's not been easy, but I think the time has come for me to abandon tennis." Speaking to the Australian press in 2015 to promote the 2016 World Tennis Challenge, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario stated, "Tennis was a happy part of my life but now I'm mostly taking care of the kids. 

"I knew when I wanted to retire and after that transition life continues. I knew what I wanted to do and I’m enjoying my moment away from tennis as well. I've gone back to playing a little bit more now (at age 43) and I'm really excited to come back to Australia, and for the first time to Adelaide — I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I always felt quite at home in Australia. But I only play once or twice a week now, mostly doubles, and spend more time on the bike, because I haven’t got that much time now until the kids go to school." 

In November 1994, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the $400,000 Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California before a crowd of 7,098 at Oakland Coliseum Arena. 'The Los Angeles Times' informed, "In a week of contrasts and of triumph, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario began by answering the threat of the future (then 14-year-old Venus Williams in her first professional tennis match) and finished by responding to the challenge of the past (Martina Navratilova in her second last tournament before taking her leave from women's singles). The match also marked Martina Navratilova's 239th final match of a career that started when Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was 3 years old (in 1975)." 

It was explained, "Basically, players are not allowed to play a full schedule until they are 18 years old. Players age 17 can play 13 tournaments plus major tournaments." At a news conference held to launch the $1.2 million US Rogers AT&T Cup played in Toronto, Canada in August 2001, Martina Navratilova told the press why many players were withdrawing from tournaments due to injuries, "We don't have an off-season. That has been the biggest problem. You have to create your off-season. 

"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. 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 (about 4 matches per tournament) and that's just too much." 

Associated Press noted, "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." In the May 1994 edition of 'Sports Illustrated', Sally Jenkins reported, "Tennis was played and run by so-called amateurs until 1968, when player revolts ushered in the Open, or professional, era.

"(By 1994) a total of 1,300 players are ranked by the ATP, 1,000 by the WTA. (In 1993) 1,043 players won prize money on the ATP Tour. Tennis, Pete Sampras says, should be 'strictly business', and Jim Courier concurs. Yes, but it's the entertainment business. That doesn't mean players should try to entertain at the expense of their best tennis.

"On the men's tour the number of withdrawals due to injury in this non-contact sport rose from 74 in 1989 to an amazing 194 in '93 and 52 in the first quarter of '94. Last year (in 1993) the women's tour suffered a record 61 injuries and withdrawals from tournaments - 32 by Top 10 players. To the average sports fan tennis is played by pampered, insolent children, run by overmanned businessmen and governed by quarrelsome organizations, and every one of these parties is hopelessly out of touch with the real world. At the height of the tennis boom, in 1978, 35 million Americans played the game. That number has shrunk to 22 million. 

"Racket sales in the US, which represents roughly half the world tennis-equipment market, fell by 22.6% in 1993. As for tennis shoes, Nike suffered a 36% drop in US sales in '93 (though business has since picked up). The ATP ranking system practically asks players to tank by tabulating only a player's best 14 tournament results over the previous 52 weeks, allowing him to throw out his worst results. The formula was designed to encourage players to play more."

In a career on the regular tour spanning 18 years (turned pro in 1988), Conchita Martinez announced she was retiring in 2006 due to injury. In all, Conchita Martinez won 33 singles titles from 1,036 matches played. She reached 11 French Open quarterfinals and 5 successive Italian Open finals. At Wimbledon in 1994, Conchita Martinez ended Martina Navratilova's storybook career by becoming the first Spanish woman to win the Wimbledon singles title. Martina Navratilova who had reached the finals of Wimbledon 12 times and winning the tournament 9 times told the press, "I remember how that first one felt … I feel this place in my bones. I feel all those champions out there, dead and alive, when I'm out there. There's no place like it."

A former pupil of Eric Van Harpen, from 1990, Conchita Martinez, then 17-year-old, was coached by Eduardo Osta, who reportedly "quit the men's tour to work with Martinez, plans to follow Harpen's lead and keep the number of tournaments Martinez plays to 14 or 15. She played 12 (in 1989) and won 3." Eduardo Osta spoke to 'The Los Angeles Times', "We don't need to play too many tournaments because we need to practice and learn a more complete game. You cannot play each week. That's no way to learn."

Eric Van Harpen spoke to 'The New York Times' in 1995, "It's starting to come, but with Conchita nothing comes overnight. I've been telling her for 7 years to lose weight, and finally now she's done it. I told her it was unbelievable that she had never won a Slam, that it wasn't normal, and I told her she should stop telling everybody she's a clay-court player. But she beat (Steffi) Graf on Supreme (her only win in 14 meetings at the 1993's Virginia Slims of Philadelphia), and she had the backhand slice, the good forehand, and the passing shot to work at Wimbledon. So maybe she was surprised when she won there, but I wasn't." 

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