MELBOURNE - There are few taboos left in sport but how women "suffer in silence" through their period pains is one that needs to be acknowledged, according to former British number one Annabel Croft.
She made the comments after current British number one Heather Watson was knocked out of the Australian Open after admitting she felt unwell.
"I think it's just one of these things that I have, girl things," Watson told reporters.
The 22-year-old said she felt dizzy, sick and had low energy levels that were so bad she was forced to call a doctor towards the end of the first set in her 6-4, 6-0 first round loss to Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.
She had come into the opening Grand Slam of the season in top form having won the lead-up Hobart International.
Croft told BBC radio that Watson's comments were "brave" and that women would "identify completely" with her symptoms.
"Women's monthly issues seems to be one of those subjects that gets swept under the carpet and is a big secret," she said.
"Women dealing with these issues at any time is hard enough, but actually trying to go out there and trying to play top-level sport at one of the most crucial times in the calendar year. It is just really unlucky.
"I think women do suffer in silence on this subject. It has always been a taboo subject." Watson said not being able to play to her full ability due to "women issues" was "really frustrating".
"But it happens and you're dealt with different cards on different days and I should have dealt with it better. It's a real shame and it sucks." Tara Moore, a tennis player friend of Watson and the current British number five, said she had complete sympathy with her menstrual cycle falling during major tournaments for the past six years.
"We have to deal with another element that no one speaks about really," she told Britain's Telegraph newspaper, adding that 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 said, adding that Wimbledon's insistence that all players wear white was another issue for women going through the menstrual cycle.