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All-Williams final is a TV hit

By SHARON GINN, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 10, 2001

NEW YORK -- Even though Venus Williams' victory over sister Serena was one-sided, the prospect of an all-Williams final was enough to give CBS prime-time ratings Saturday a significant boost.

The so-called fast national ratings, which are more complete than overnight ratings, gave CBS a 6.8 rating and 13 share. That is 24 percent better than the network's average Saturday night rating between Oct. 7 and Sept. 1 (5.5/10).

The ratings also were 17 percent better than the live portion of last year's women's final (5.8/13 during the late afternoon). It was the highest-rated women's final since Hana Mandlikova beat Martina Navratilova (7.3/19) in 1985. One ratings point equals just over 1-million homes, or 1 percent of U.S. households with televisions. Share is the percentage of televisions turned on that were tuned in.

"(The ratings) were phenomenally good, considering it was not all that competitive a match," said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports.

McManus said he would consider putting the women's final in prime time again, but next year's so-called Super Saturday falls on the same day as the Miami-Florida game, which the network has the rights to. "If we can work it out, that would be great," he said.

RAYMOND, STUBBS WIN: Lisa Raymond, a two-time NCAA singles winner at Florida, won her first U.S. Open title with Rennae Stubbs in women's doubles. The top-seeded pair, who also won Wimbledon, beat No. 4 Kimberly Po-Messerli and Nathalie Tauziat 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.

"I think it's testament to her and to us to come back this year and once again prove Billie Jean (King) and the USTA wrong," Stubbs said, referring to their decision to leave Raymond -- the country's top-ranked doubles player -- off the Olympic team last year in favor of Serena Williams.

"She should feel really proud winning this event, the USTA event."

RECORD ATTENDANCE: This year's Open drew 639,343 fans, a record for any tennis tournament. It eclipsed the record of 606,017 set at last year's Open.

LEGEND CHEERS SISTERS ... : Nearly a half century after she broke one of tennis' racial barriers, Althea Gibson admired the artistry and power of the Williams sisters at the U.S. Open.

"I would like to congratulate the Williams family for accomplishing this historic achievement," Gibson was quoted in the New York Times on Sunday.

"Two family members and two sisters who have become two of the greatest tennis athletes in the world."

Gibson, 74, watched from her apartment in East Orange, N.J., and spoke through spokeswoman Fran Gray. Gray is president and chief executive officer of the Althea Gibson Foundation.

In 1957, Gibson -- a powerful serve-and-volley player -- became the first black to win the Wimbledon singles title and the first to win the U.S. national crown.

WHILE MOTHER CHEERS FOR ONE: Oracene Williams admits she was pulling for her youngest daughter in the final.

"I was trying to give her a little edge," Oracene Williams said of Serena Williams.

"I was hoping Serena would win the second set for a little competition. I was just trying to encourage Serena to pick it up just a little. Serena would have Venus on the ropes and let up a little."

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