Tennis: Capriati case causes concern: Players' opinions sought - John Roberts reports from Paris on moves to alleviate stress in young professionals

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The Independent Online
TRACY AUSTIN and Andrea Jaeger, two players associated with the stresses that can lead to premature retirement from the sport, have been invited to give evidence to a panel examining the question of age eligibility.

The parents of Jennifer Capriati, who is receiving treatment at a drug rehabilitation centre after being accused of possessing marijuana, have been asked to give written testimony to the conference, organised during the Wimbledon championships by the Women's Tennis Council.

Significantly, the WTC has engaged an anti-trust lawyer to advise on the legal implications in the United States with regard to restraint of trade if it is decided to raise the minimum age for the women's tour to 16 from 14.

Capriati was given a special dispensation to compete on the professional tour during the month of her 14th birthday in 1990. She has not played since losing in the first round of the United States Open in August last year, and her problems have heightened the need for an investigation.

'What happened (to Capriati) does not reflect positively on women's tennis,' Anne Worcester, the managing director of the WTC, said yesterday.

The panel, after meeting during Wimbledon, will reconvene during the United States Open to make recommendations which may take effect next year. Counselling for the parents of young players is one idea being considered, with seminars to be held during tournaments.

Austin, who, like Capriati, first competed at Wimbledon as a 14-year-old, returned to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open in January this year after a 10-year absence caused by injuries.

Yesterday, playing her first match at the French Open since losing to Britain's Jo Durie in the quarter-finals in 1983, she was defeated by Marketa Kochta, of Germany, 6-0, 6-1. 'I would recommend that youngsters stay in school, which is a good balancing factor,' the 31-year-old Austin said, 'and I would also suggest they seek the counsel of older players, who know the pitfalls.

'It's hard to generalise about individuals. I don't think it was too soon for me to play some tournaments when I was 14, but I was two months from 16 when I turned pro. I played two years as an amateur, so I couldn't have gone much slower than I did.'

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