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mboyle
Jul 8th, 2002, 07:58 PM
FENDRICH ON TENNIS: Keep those all-Williams finals coming
Jul 8, 2002 2:28 PM (EDT) Email this Story

By HOWARD FENDRICH
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) - Hey, new Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt and any other doubters, listen up: The Williams sisters are great for tennis.

Even if they keep beating everyone in sight? Yes.

Even if they keep meeting in Grand Slam finals? Especially.

The late Pete Rozelle's thoughts on parity notwithstanding, sports tend to reach their greatest popularity during periods of either a great rivalry or a dynasty.

With Serena and Venus Williams, tennis gets both.


Asked Monday about the sisters' effect on the sport, Hewitt seemed genuinely impressed by their success. He also sounded a note of caution.

"They're dominating, all right," said the No. 1-ranked man, who right now doesn't appear to have a worthy rival. "Three out of the last four Slams, they've played in the finals. They're No. 1 and 2 in the world. And winning doubles, as well. It's an incredible effort, an incredible story.

"But people may get sick of seeing the two of them playing in every Grand Slam final all the time."

Perhaps. Similar opinions were expressed by Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo after each lost to a Williams in the Wimbledon semifinals.

But Serena's 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Venus in Saturday's final at Wimbledon helped produce ratings roughly 50 percent higher on NBC than for Hewitt's 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of David Nalbandian on the same court the following day.

And the Williams sisters' doubles victory Sunday drew roughly a third more viewers, on average, than Hewitt-Nalbandian (it helps, no doubt, that the sisters are American).

When CBS aired the U.S. Open women's title match last September in prime time, the first all-sibling Grand Slam singles final since 1884 drew more viewers than a competing top-20 football game between Notre Dame and Nebraska.

Where Serena and Venus could have their greatest impact on the game is helping raise everyone's level. Right now, no one can match their power or court coverage.

Nothing spurs a sport's evolution quite like better, faster, stronger players who force competitors to adapt and try to match them.

"The other women players have to catch up to these two," 18-time major champion and NBC analyst Chris Evert said. "These two have set a certain level of excellence and now it's time for Lindsay (Davenport), (Martina) Hingis, (Kim) Clijsters and Jennifer (Capriati) to figure out more training, whatever it takes, to reach their level. And then it would be a great scene."

Tennis had its heyday in the 1970s and '80s thanks to Evert vs. Martina Navratilova, and John McEnroe vs. Jimmy Connors vs. Bjorn Borg. The NBA's biggest booms were during Magic vs. Bird, then when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls were winning six titles in the 1990s.

And, of course, Tiger Woods' excellence has brought golf into the mainstream, boosting TV ratings to unprecedented levels and helping total PGA Tour prize money double since 1998 to about $200 million.

One Williams would have a legitimate shot at controlling a sport, a la Woods. Instead, tennis gets a sort of Tiger-times-two.

Since the start of Wimbledon 2001, the sisters are a combined 117-9 against everyone but each other. In that span, they have won 17 titles, including four of five majors. Monday's rankings have Serena at No. 1 for the first time, Venus at No. 2.

And Serena is only 20, Venus 22.

Men's tennis could use some of that superiority - or a rivalry.

When the 21-year-old Hewitt added Wimbledon to his 2001 U.S. Open title, it ended an unprecedented two-year patch of parity during which eight men won the eight Grand Slam tournaments, and four straight majors were won by first-time major champions.

Nalbandian was the first player since the start of the Open era in 1968 to reach the final at the All England Club in his Wimbledon debut. The French Open was won by Albert Costa, who hadn't won a tournament at any level in nearly three years.

And no one seems ready to take on Hewitt consistently.

Pete Sampras is in decline - his ranking fell to 16th Monday - and, at 32, Andre Agassi doesn't have too many years left. Marat Safin, Hewitt's predecessor as U.S. Open champion and still just 22, doesn't always keep his head in the game.

All three of those players lost in Wimbledon's second round.

The Williams sisters, meanwhile, are halfway to a Sister Slam: four straight meetings in major finals.

"We're entertainers," Venus said. "We always want the crowd and everyone watching to be entertained."

WOW! Imagine if the WTA's purse exceeded 200 million because of the Williams sisters

:eek:

BigTennisFan
Jul 8th, 2002, 08:39 PM
[i]
But Serena's 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Venus in Saturday's final at Wimbledon helped produce ratings roughly 50 percent higher on NBC than for Hewitt's 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of David Nalbandian on the same court the following day.

And the Williams sisters' doubles victory Sunday drew roughly a third more viewers, on average, than Hewitt-Nalbandian (it helps, no doubt, that the sisters are American).

When CBS aired the U.S. Open women's title match last September in prime time, the first all-sibling Grand Slam singles final since 1884 drew more viewers than a competing top-20 football game between Notre Dame and Nebraska.

[/B]

Thanks for this article. mboyle. The thing that I love is how much the Sisters up the ratings when they play. I love it because you just know that there are certain people who want them to lose in the ratings so they can say, I told you so.
Even the tennis people who should be glad that they are bringing in more people to the sport are trying to make it seem like a bad thing.
But it seems that the public can't get enough of those young ladies. :D

GogoGirl
Jul 8th, 2002, 09:51 PM
Thanks mboyle.


http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/07/07/1025667091952.html


Why sisters deserve a pat on the back
July 8 2002




Opponents of the Williams sisters should stop whining and whispering about them, and start appreciating them, writes Roy Collins from Wimbledon.


As the men's game cries out for more performances that make sense of the world rankings, the ability of the Williams sisters to maintain a consistency level commensurate with their No 1 and No 2 positions ought to have earned the respect and admiration of their fellow competitors for proving that the distaff game is in a healthier state.

But, sadly, their inexorable passage to a second successive grand slam final appeared to elicit only resentment, jealousy and in some cases, near-contempt from the rest of the locker room. The best they ever receive is a grudging word in appreciation of their talents.

Venus and Serena Williams are the two best players in the world, who just happen to be sisters and therein, of course, lies the problem. But why should that accident of birth deny them the acclaim they are due? No-one complained when Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova continually met in grand slam finals; nor of boredom when Navratilova regularly faced Chris Evert.

It is true that, because of the closeness of their relationship, matches between the Williamses have tended to be so forgettable that they have been accused of taking it in turns to win. But that is another outrageous slur that no player would dare level against anyone else on the circuit. But where the Williams sisters are concerned, it seems that no accusation is too base.

Now that they have risen to dominate women's tennis through sheer hard work and determination, both on the practice court and in the gym, their fellow competitors are all but accusing them of foul play.



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After losing to Serena in the French Open semi-final, Jennifer Capriati, who had lost her place as the world No 1, alleged that they had been "clever" in manipulating the rankings by avoiding playing in the same events, as if not playing could ever improve one's standing.

After her 6-2 6-1 semi-final defeat by Serena, Amelie Mauresmo said: "You know, I've lost count of the people who have said to me 'We don't want a Williams final, whatever'."

She continued: "I started well but then she just cruised on. She was playing so well that I couldn't do anything. I tried a few things but I just couldn't do anything."

Justine Henin offered a similar bleat after she was wiped away 6-3 6-2 by Venus, saying: "She was too strong, too good. She didn't let me play. She was so aggressive, so powerful, what could I do? She played better today than when she beat me in last year's final. You can see the sisters are the best two players in the world but maybe the crowd would like to see different players in the grand slam finals."

There is no acknowledgement of the sisters' dedication, professionalism and sheer athletic powers.

The latter is even used as another weapon against them, as if size, strength and speed are not only natural attributes that need no tending but that they are the only requirements of a top-class player.

At least Monica Seles was happy to deny that, saying: "Venus and Serena are not No 1 and 2 in the world because of their size. If that were the case, you could take any general Joe who is six foot two [1.87m] and give him a racquet.

"They have pretty good tennis skills and they have improved a lot in the last couple of years."

Serena, 20, has improved immeasurably in the past 12 months, especially in terms of concentration, not just over a match but over the two weeks of a grand slam. She is now a player capable of raising her game in the second week when the challenges become steeper.

In the first week of this Wimbledon, she could barely raise her first-service success-rate above 50 per cent. But she improved to 67 per cent against Chanda Rubin in the quarter-final and moved up to an impressive 74 per cent in the semi-final.

Venus, by contrast, returned a shocking 46 per cent of first service successes against Henin, which only emphasised the gulf in class between the two. And Henin was one of the few players fancied to upset the sisters.

Mauresmo was another and she produced the performance of the championships by beating Capriati in the quarters. Sadly, that denied us even one great match at these championships, a repeat of Capriati's semi against Serena in Paris.

That made it a certainty that the world's two best players would meet in the final. They became the first top and second seeds to meet in a Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1995.

For that, they ought to have earned the praise of their fellow professionals, instead of the sniping and backbiting from players who ought to look at their own games and preparations.

The Telegraph, London

J_Migoe
Jul 8th, 2002, 10:28 PM
Well said. I couldn't agree more.

eshell
Jul 9th, 2002, 03:23 PM
Wow! Thanks for the positive posts.

Weevee
Jul 9th, 2002, 05:23 PM
Keep it up!!