New York - John McEnroe says women aren't cut out to play as many tournaments as they're asked to by their tour.
"There should be less events for women," McEnroe said in a conference call this week to preview CBS' coverage of the US Open, which starts on Monday. "You need an actual meltdown on court or someone to quit the game altogether before they realize you need to change the schedule."
The same day that McEnroe was voicing his opinion, the Women's Tennis Association released an update on initiatives it's taking to make the season less of a grind.
By shortening and streamlining the season, the WTA said withdrawals were down 35% and participation by top players was up 57% in the tour's top nine events over the first eight months of 2010 compared to 2008.
Another CBS analyst and former pro, Mary Carillo, was on the call with McEnroe, and while she agreed that the quality of women's tennis could use an upgrade, she doesn't think women are incapable of grinding through as long a season as the men.
"I hate the idea that we have to judge women on a curve and say, 'It's too much for them,"' Carillo said. "I've seen too many great women champions for too long."
The US Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money to men and women - a policy that has been criticised by some because the women play best-of-three-set matches, while the men play best-of-five.
There's also a debate about whether men and women should play at the same sites more often, and whether the schedule unfairly forces players to enter too many events to secure their rankings.
"I think that's a little bit of a misconception that's out there," said Kim Clijsters, who left the tour for about 2 years to start a family, then won the 2009 US Open in her return to Grand Slam tennis. "We can choose our schedule. We choose how many tournaments we want to play in, and I think it's a player's discipline and professionalism to know when to play."
McEnroe said women have it better in tennis than any other sport.
"But you shouldn't push them to playing more than they're capable of playing," he said. "Unless you want to make it best-of-five. Make it best-of-five for majors for the women."