Friday 30 September 2016

Reigning Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova says periods can make things 'tough' for female players

Radhika Sanghani

Published 30/06/2015 | 09:04

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova gives a press conference in the Main Interview Room during a preview day for the Wimbledon Championships
Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova gives a press conference in the Main Interview Room during a preview day for the Wimbledon Championships

The ‘last taboo’ for women in sport has officially been broken.

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Wimbledon ladies' champion, 25-year-old Petra Kvitova, has spoken out about the hardship of female players having their periods during tournaments.

At a press conference, ahead of this year's grand slam at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the Czech player was asked to what extents 'girl things' affect female players. (Cue embarrassed laughter from the room-full of male reporters).

Kvitova replied: "I think for normal women, they know about [this issue]".

"If we have to play the match or [do] training or something, it's difficult.

"To be honest, I think it's quite tough. Of course, I have these experiences from before.

"It's never really easy to deal with one more tough thing. I think always the beginning of this kind of period, it's tough."

As a follow-up question yesterday, Kvitova was also asked whether having to wear all-white at Wimbledon made it even more difficult for female tennis players.

"No, I think it's fine," she replied.

Kvitova's comments come six months after British number one Heather Watson first raised the 'controversial' issue of menstruation in sport.

When asked why she lost in the first round of the Australian Open, Watson explained that she'd experienced dizziness, nausea and low energy levels that were so bad she was forced to call a doctor.

She told BBC Sport: “I think it's just one of these things that I have, girl things.”

By referring to her period, Watson did something that hadn’t ever been attempted before - bringing the subject of menstruation in sport into the open.

Her comments even led former British number one tennis player Annabel Croft to admit that periods have: “Always been a taboo subject.”

She told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Women's monthly issues seem to be one of those subjects that gets swept under the carpet and is a big secret.

"I think women do suffer in silence.”

Now, it seems that Kvitova is keen to continue that conversation ahead of Wimbledon 2015, where players are forced to wear whites.

Tara Moore, 22, is a tennis player, friend of Watson and the current British number five. She tells me this is true - periods can really affect a player’s performance, especially when they’re not discussed openly.

“For sure it’s tough. Anything that inhibits your performance will be tough. It’s hoping your tournaments don’t coincide with it.

“We have to deal with another element that no one speaks about really.”

She tells me that her period has fallen during major tournaments for the past six years – and last year she had to play a four hour match in the middle of it .

It’s why she thinks the sport's governing body should consider changing the rules about toilet breaks.

Currently players can only take a break once every set.

“That should be enough really but if it’s a long set it can be tough,” she admits.

 Wimbledon’s insistence that all players wear white is another issue for those on their periods.

“At Wimbledon we have to wear white, so it’s quite a big deal. Especially because male players don’t understand that we have another element to deal with.

“[Bleeding on your uniform] is something you feel quite worried about. If something like that happens it’s mortifying – it’s a nightmare.

"I have had nightmares about that before.”

She doesn’t think that Wimbledon should alter its rule – “you can’t change tradition” – but thinks it’s something that people need to be aware of, and think about.

What's more, she explains, periods can often affect a player’s coordination, energy levels and even their judgement.

Watson is her friend, and Moore tells me she can often struggle during menstruation. On top of that, she tells me that not all players know how best to deal with their periods. It's a big issue.

“A lot of players don’t take enough supplements, drink enough water, or take painkillers when they should,” she explains.

“A lot of painkillers specifically for [periods] are banned. Some of them contain performance enhancing drugs.

“In that sense there should be something that could be done, there should be something specifically made.”

It’s why she thinks that the governing bodies in tennis should educate players about being on their periods. Some players take the contraceptive pill, which can prevent periods, but Moore says that often doesn’t reduce the side effects such as bloating and tiredness.

“It’s a taboo subject even in everyday life. With the [International Tennis Federation] they don’t tell you [how to deal with periods], especially juniors when girls are travelling by themselves at 16, 17, 18.

"There should be something sent out to explain what can help. It’s up to the governing body to educate the players.”

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