Defending champion Venus Williams fears top stars are in danger of burning out unless they are given better protection from the sport’s gruelling schedule.
Former world number ones Justine Henin, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters all retired by the age of 25 after tiring of life on the WTA Tour although Clijsters plans a comeback later this year.
Most players join the circuit by the time they are 16 or 17 and, if they reach the top 10, are guaranteed to endure a steady diet of high-pressure matches for the rest of their careers.
Venus, an active member of the players’ council, admits something must be done to ease the pressure.
“Sometimes we lose stars so early and I think it would help the sport if we could be able to play longer,” she said.
“That’s a schedule thing, because you spend the first 30 years of your life literally playing non-stop. It’s kind of humanly impossible to keep that up. So it would be great to find that balance.”
Venus, who designs clothes for her own fashion label, believes players must develop other interests off court to stop tennis taking over their minds as well as their bodies.
“You spend so many hours on the court when you’re young. You have to, just to get that pure repetition so that when you’re a professional you just do it without thinking,” she said.
“But it’s important to stay physically and mentally refreshed. I definitely see at this point in my career that my priorities will change to making sure that I’m physically and mentally refreshed, and that will make my career even longer than what it has been."