WIMBLEDON, England - Three days ago, the WTA Tour kicked off a worldwide publicity campaign with the aggressive slogan, "A woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do."
It's catchy and cool if only semi-original. But saying it and doing it are different matters and right now the big names on the women's tennis tour are not doing what they gotta do.
Women's tennis is in a slump that is being fed by injuries, a lack of depth and a disturbing paucity of competitive matches, and even an all-Williams final at Wimbledon, which begins its 13-day run today, might not be enough to snap this tour out of the doldrums.
One year ago, almost the entire army of women's stars fought their way to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon - Serena and Venus Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, and they engaged each other in a series of three-setters that ended with the high drama of Serena beating her wounded sister, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the final.
With the beginning of play today (7 a.m. EST), there is no Henin-Hardenne, the No. 1-ranked player. She's got a viral infection that has been sapping her for two months. There is no No. 2 Clijsters, who has had wrist surgery and who may not be back on court until the U.S. Open in August.
Davenport is here, but with a knee that hasn't fully recovered from the "tweak" she felt at the French Open. And no one is quite sure yet if French Open winner Anastasia Myskina is ready to join the elite.
Among the four best players in women's tennis - Serena and Venus Williams, Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters - they've played each other only once this year, when Henin-Hardenne defeated Clijsters in the final of the Australian Open in late January.
Meanwhile, the Williamses have had their own injuries. Serena, who didn't return from knee surgery until April, has been in only five tournaments. Venus, with a succession of minor problems, has played eight tournaments, but she hasn't had long enough pain-free stretches to get into top form, and the result has been upset losses at the Australian Open, Key Biscayne and the French.
Because of the injuries, the top players are not playing each other. The Williams sisters haven't matched up since the 2003 Wimbledon final. Serena hasn't played Davenport since April of 2003. She hasn't faced Henin-Hardenne since the semifinals of last year's Wimbledon. She hasn't played Clijsters since the 2003 Key Biscayne. Nor has she been across the net from Amelie Mauresmo since last year's French Open.
Looking back over the first six months of the season, it's hard to find more than three significantly exciting matches - Capriati's wins over Serena at Rome and the French Open and Capriati's close loss to Mauresmo in the Rome final.
Three years ago, women's tennis was so hot a dozen news magazines, not all of them sports-related, were writing about how it had overtaken the men's game. Now it is left to regroup.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Site: All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England
Dates: Today-July 4; no matches Sunday
Singles champion prize: Men, $1,096,550; Women, $1,020,110
Defending men's champion: Roger Federer
Defending women's champion: Serena Williams
TV: ESPN, ESPN2, NBC