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Dynasty, parity good for tennis

Associated Press
Published July 8, 2003

WIMBLEDON, England - The Williams sisters are so accustomed to being in Grand Slam finals that they had a camera at the ready for the trophy ceremony when Serena beat Venus at Wimbledon.

Winning a major title was all so new to Roger Federer that he broke down in tears a few times in the minutes after defeating Mark Philippoussis.

And therein lies the difference between men's and women's tennis at the moment: The women have a pair of dominant players while the men keep spreading the wealth.

A case could be made that both are good for the game's popularity.

Rivalries and dynasties tend to help sports attract fans, and you get two for the price of one with Team Williams. Some might argue, however, that there is something to be said for new matchups and changing champions, which keep the sport fresh.

The truth is individual sports need someone at the fore, a Tiger Woods or a Martina Navratilova, for example.

Someone whose majesty attracts even casual fans.

"Tennis needs a clear hierarchy," three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker wrote in Monday's Times of London. "It needs players of talent who are seen to dominate."

Serena and Venus have played each other in five of the past six major finals, with Serena winning each time. Going back to Wimbledon in 2000, the sisters claimed nine of the past 13 Grand Slams. Only two other players won a major in that span: Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

When Henin-Hardenne beat Kim Clijsters in the French Open final, the TV ratings were 39 percent lower than for last year's all-Williams matchup there.

Now take a look at the men's game, where everyone seems to get a turn. Federer is the seventh player to win in the past seven Grand Slams, one shy of the Open era record set in the 1970s and equaled last year.

Few Americans have heard of Federer - and that number didn't get much larger Sunday. His 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Mark Philippoussis drew the lowest overnight rating on record for a Wimbledon men's final.

The question now is whether Federer can take the next step and become a consistent champion, a la Pete Sampras (record 14 majors) or Andre Agassi (eight majors, including a career Grand Slam). Or will he be a one-hit wonder, a la Marat Safin, who seemed destined to collect a slew of majors when he broke through for his first at the 2000 U.S Open but hasn't followed up.

As for Federer, John McEnroe said, "This could open the door for him for many, many more, other majors - not just Wimbledon."

SWISS BLISS: The Swiss media installed Federer as the country's latest sports star.

The word "Yes!" accompanied a photograph of Federer on Monday's front page of the daily Le Matin.

The Lausanne daily 24 Heures, inspired by the huge trophy and the traditional royal attendance at the Wimbledon final, crowned the champion "Federer the First."

The mass circulation daily Blick had the same idea, hailing "King Roger I" and offering a full-page poster of an emotional Federer holding the Wimbledon trophy.

RATINGS: Overnight TV ratings for the men's and women's Wimbledon finals were down from last year.

NBC's broadcast of the women's final between Serena and Venus Williams on Saturday produced a 4.0 rating with an 11 share. That's down 13 percent from the 4.6 rating with a 14 share earned by last year's final. Serena defeated her sister 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win her second straight title.

The men's final between Federer and Philippoussis, which anchored the network's Sunday broadcast, got a 2.7 with an eight share, down 13 percent from last year's 3.1 with a nine share.

Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest markets in the United States, covering nearly 70 percent of the country. Each point represents about 735,000 homes. The share is the percentage of televisions in use tuned to a program.

RANKINGS: Serena Williams' championship helped her mark a full year at No.1, and Federer's first Grand Slam title lifted him to a career-high No.3 in the ATP Tour rankings.

Williams made her debut atop the WTA Tour rankings on July 8, 2002, after the end of Wimbledon. Only five women have stayed at No.1 for more consecutive weeks than Williams' current stand.

Agassi, beaten in the fourth round at the All England Club, stayed atop the rankings. The 2002 Wimbledon champion and former No.1, Lleyton Hewitt, tumbled from No.2 to No.5 after losing in the first round to a qualifier.

SWEDISH OPEN: Mikhail Youzhny and Nicolas Lapentti won first-round matches in straight sets in Bastad. Youzhny, seeded fourth, edged Olivier Rochus 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1) with both players adjusting to clay after playing on Wimbledon's grass courts. Lapentti, seeded sixth, beat Luis Horna 6-4, 7-5, avenging two losses to the Peruvian this year.

HALL OF FAME CHAMPIONSHIPS: Seventh-seeded Justin Gimelstob won a thrilling tiebreaker to oust Jeff Morrison in the opening round in Newport, R.I. Gimelstob won 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (13-11). He failed in six match points before Morrison hit a backhand long to end the 2 hour, 26 minute match.

Today Tampa's James Blake begins his quest to become the first No.1 seed to win in the tournament's 26 years.

The Hall of Fame Championships are the only grass tournament played in North America.

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