Wade wades into Hantuchova furore

Britain's former Wimbledon champion voices concerns over Slovakian's figure as Belgium's leading women show Grand Slam form
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The Independent Online

Virginia Wade, the last British Wimbledon singles champion, added her voice yesterday to increasing concerns about the welfare of Daniela Hantuchova, the tall, skinny Slovakian player who admits to having weight problems.

"I'm hoping that Daniela will write this year off and work at what her priorities are," Wade, said, "because I don't think she wanted to be a model. She wanted to be a tennis player. She's at risk of injury because of her weight. She's not the most fluent mover anyway."

Wade, who won Wimbledon in 1977, had watched Hantuchova advance to the quarter-finals of the Hastings Direct International Championships at Devonshire Park here, defeating the sturdy American Alexandra Stevenson, 7-6, 6-4, on a cool, blustery day. "I let my racket talk today and proved it's not all about power," said Hantuchova, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist last year and the ninth seed this time.

"I focus on my game and don't think about these other things," Hantuchova added. "Everyone has got a different body shape and a different way of getting fit and strong. It's all about feeling strong. I really feel very fit. If you really want to talk about fitness, take my heart rate and compare it to others. I can eat as much as I want, and anything I want. It's better than being on the other side, having to lose weight."

Wade was sceptical: "Maybe Daniela got a little bit distracted by all the attention about her looks, and it changed her image of herself," she said. "She's lost too much weight just when everybody else is bulking up. She needs to put that back. All the attention she got at Wimbledon last year suddenly interfered with her, because I know she's someone who wants to do well in the game.

"She's such a nice, down-to-earth girl. But suddenly everyone was saying how glamorous she was. It came out of left field that she was glamorous, that everyone was in love with her. She didn't think of herself as Miss Sexy Boots.

"Not eating enough is a dangerous route to take. I went through a stage when I thought I was too heavy and stopped eating lunch. Even the year I won Wimbledon I was a little underweight, although not in any way anorexic. I just did things like cutting out bread. Daniela's not in the danger zone yet, and she's conscious of it now. But you only have to go a little bit farther across that line and it becomes an eating disorder."

The 20-year-old Hantuchova, who says she burns off calories faster than she absorbs them, does not accept that her tennis career has been side-tracked by magazine photo-shoots. "I think I'm handling this stuff pretty well," she said. "My agency is helping me to get a balance."

Lindsay Davenport, the top seed, was eliminated in her first grass-court match of the year, losing to the unseeded Silvia Farina Elia, of Italy, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6. Davenport, the 1999 Wimbledon champion, recovered from 5-1 down in the final set and held three match points before Farina Elia went on to win the tie-break, 7-3.

"The conditions were awful and I played awfully," Davenport said. "I'm just happy I got through and that my [injured] foot feels good. Wimbledon? We'll see. It's going to take a lot for me to turn my game around." Davenport is hoping to postpone surgery to deaden a nerve in her left foot until November.

Jennifer Capriati, the third seed, recovered from 5-0 down in the second set to beat Amy Frazier 6-1, 7-5.

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