Following the announcement that Britain’s Laura Robson has retired from tennis at the age of 28 after three hip operations (Report, 16 May), I feel that a review of the sport and its impact on the long-term health of participants is overdue. Laura joins a long list of players who have had surgery at what is a relatively young age (Andy Murray, hip; Roger Federer, knee; Serena Williams, knee; Rafael Nadal, ankle). Procedures such as hip replacements only last about 15 years, so former players will probably face further surgery, not to mention the likelihood of suffering with arthritis in old age.
Tennis involves a lot of pivoting and twisting, which is hard on the hips; there may be more hip and lower leg injuries due to the increased time spent rallying in the modern game, which seems to have moved away from the serve-and-volley game of previous eras. As a result, matches last considerably longer in what is already a lengthier playing season. Playing surfaces are also considerably harder, which adds to the impact on joints.
Surely the time has come for changes to the game. Let’s get back to the serve-and-volley game: it is much more exciting to watch. Cut the men’s matches down to best of three sets in all tournaments; it’s boring watching five-setters – the decisive action often only comes in the final sets. Review the issue of court surfacing and come up with something that is more forgiving on the body. Let’s act now and protect the future of our young players.