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Women's game finds the spark it needs

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 1, 2000


For a while there, women's tennis this season was looking like a two-horse race. Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis seemingly were clashing every week this spring, building an interesting rivalry but draining suspense from the game.

But with the re-emergence of Mary Pierce and the Williams sisters, the women's game is finding a spark. Davenport and Hingis met in the first three significant tournament finals of the season (Australian Open, Indian Wells and Key Biscayne), but Pierce won the French Open and the Williams sisters dominated Wimbledon, with Serena losing in the semifinals to Venus, who won the title. Sunday, Venus topped Davenport to win the WTA Tour stop in Stanford, Calif.

With the U.S. Open later this month, the women's game is wide open. Five players -- Davenport, Hingis, Pierce, Serena and Venus -- figure to be strong contenders at Flushing Meadows. That three of them are Americans will only boost interest and sell tickets.

TRIVIA QUESTION: Magnus Norman leads the ATP Champions Race, but who has spent the most weeks this season in the top spot?

CHANG AS WE'VE NEVER SEEN HIM: The always-stoic Michael Chang nearly broke down in tears after winning the ATP Tour stop in Los Angeles on Sunday, his first title in almost two years.

Asked by reporters about his struggles the last couple of years -- he dropped out of the top 75 -- Chang fought back tears as his voice cracked.

"When you're down, you have to pick yourself back up ... ," he said before being overcome with emotion. He was silent for a moment, tried to compose himself, then said: "It's emotional for me. The last couple of years have been tough, but I've had a lot of support from my family and friends. This title means a lot to me."

Hope someone caught it on tape because we may never see Chang that exposed again.

MORE CHANG: Reality might gobble up Chang this week in Toronto, where he faces a long road to winning back-to-back titles.

If the draw holds up, Chang would face either former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek or top-ranked Magnus Norman in the second round, then former French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals, Pete Sampras in the semis and Andre Agassi in the final.

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS: One thing about Venus Williams, she's never short on confidence. Even though she's ranked third this week, she thinks she is No. 1.

"In my mind, I've always been the best," she told reporters after winning Sunday in Stanford. "Because if you go out there and think the other player's better, you're already down 3-0."

DID YOU KNOW?: French pro Cedric Pioline is expected to be sidelined until the week before the U.S. Open after breaking three bones in his left hand playing volleyball. He had surgery recently and isn't expected to return to the tour until the Hamlet Cup on Long Island beginning Aug. 21.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Agassi, 11 weeks.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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