Berlin - Daniela Hantuchova, the world No 9 from Slovakia, has been told to gain weight before next month's Wimbledon amidst gossip that she is at risk of becoming anorexic.
The 20-year-old has always been one of the most sparely built women on the tour but is now significantly below her fighting weight of 55.3 kilos, which has caused speculation that she has a problem.
The situation also bothers her coach, Nigel Sears, who has helped her become one of the world's most high profile players over the past two years.
"I am concerned that she is underweight," Sears admitted. "I would feel happier when that situation changes, and we have addressed it and we are working on it.
"Players have an appropriate performance weight and it is not good to be over or under that, and at the moment she is under that," added the Briton, clearly keen to rebut any suggestion that Hantuchova might be unwell.
"She is not anorexic," Sears emphasised. "She is fit and strong, but she is burning off more calories than she is taking in. This is a sensitive issue for young girls. They see fashion items which to wear they must not be a couple of pounds overweight. But we have to confront it."
Sears admitted that he and Hantuchova had taken "professional advice," over the matter, though he gave the impression that this was dietary and not psychological advice.
"It is a matter of balance between calories taken in and calories going out," he said. "It's sensitive but she's a serious girl and is responding well to it," he concluded.
"I am hoping she will get back to the right weight, and I would like to feel that by Eastbourne (June) and Wimbledon (June and July) there will be a difference."
Hantuchova won a Tier 1 title for the first time in Indian Wells a year ago and climbed into the world's top ten for the first time last October. She has consolidated her place among the elite but has not pushed further upwards as quickly as some people expected.
Nevertheless, Hantuchova certainly hit the ball solidly enough and battled energetically to win her opening match in the German Open 6-3 4-6 6-3 against Barbara Schett, a former top ten player from Austria.
She now has a day off during which to prepare for her third round match against an as yet unknown opponent. - Sapa-AFP