In John McEnroe's view, the WTA schedule should be scaled back because women's tennis players do not appear to be able to handle the physical and mental aspects of the game.
"I think that it's asking too much of the women," McEnroe said. "They shouldn't be playing as many events as the men. ... The women have it better in tennis than in any other sport, thanks to Billie Jean King [who has pushed for equal prize money for women]. But you shouldn't push them to play more than they're capable of."
McEnroe, a four-time U.S. Open champion and now a TV analyst, made the comments Thursday during a CBS Sports conference call that was meant to address the network's coverage of the U.S. Open, which begins Monday.
"John's an analyst and an individual, and it was his opinion," a CBS spokesman said, according to the Los
McEnroe said that as the sport has evolved, the physical demands of the game have increased, and more than that, women are dealing with "the expectations they have for themselves."
"They should be required to be in less events; there should be less events for the women," he said on the call. "It seems it takes an actual meltdown on the court or women quitting the game altogether before they realize there's a need to change the schedule."
Fellow analyst Mary Carillo, who works for both CBS and ESPN, provided a counterpoint to McEnroe's views during the conference call.
"Monica Seles was as mentally tough as anyone I've ever seen -- man or woman," Carillo said on the call. "Steffi Graf. Chrissy [Evert] and Martina [Navratilova]. ... They stayed so fit mentally and physically for so long because they wanted it for so long. To say we're asking too much of women, I don't see it."
Stacey Allaster, commissioner of the WTA Tour, told the Los Angeles Times: "John is more than entitled to his opinion, and he is a well-respected leader in our sport, but I hope when someone makes comments he's also looking at the data. Venus [Williams] is 30 and she is very careful with her body because she wants to continue to play."
Kim Clijsters, the defending U.S. Open champion, took a two-year break from the game, healed some nagging injuries, had a baby and returned in 2009 to become the first unseeded woman to win the Open. Justine Henin took 19 months off, then returned in January, reaching the final of the Australian Open. She is missing the U.S. Open because of an elbow injury suffered at Wimbledon.
Some of the top men have had to take breaks from the game as well, most recently Juan Martin del Potro, who is unable to defend his U.S. Open title because of a wrist injury. In 2009, Rafael Nadal was hampered by injuries to both knees that kept him from winning the French Open and forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon.
"I hate the idea that we have to judge women on a curve and say, 'It's too much for them.' I've seen too many great women champions for too long," Carillo said.