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~SunFlower~
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:14 AM
Thursday November 21 2002

Williams act too rich at $4m
Unus Alladin

The Williams sisters will again be missing from the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge field in January after demanding a staggering $2 million each to appear. Organisers said yesterday Serena and Venus, the world number one and two, were 'too expensive'.

'We approached the Williams sisters and found out that they wanted in excess of $2 million each to play in Hong Kong. That is a lot of money and a sum we simply couldn't afford,' said tournament co-director Terry Catton.

'Both Williams sisters came to our tournament in 1999 when their careers were taking off. They were making a name for themselves at that time, but even then they were expensive.

'At the same time, we tried to invite them back last year and the year before that, but their asking prices were too high.

'Two million is a figure that the top men's players like Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi would probably be asking.'

The Hong Kong tournament, from January 1-4 at Victoria Park, will be headed by nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles. Elena Dementieva, last year's Hong Kong finalist, will return as part of a three-pronged Russian attack, along with world number 11 Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, the world number six ranked junior player. Also appearing at Victoria Park will be Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva and American Alexandra Stevenson, along with Chinese junior player Peng Shuai.

Organisers said either defending Hong Kong champion Jennifer Capriati, Yugoslav Jelena Dokic or former Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport would make up the list of eight players depending on 'sponsors and budget'.

The William sisters, who between them have won more than US$15 million in career prizemoney, are hot property, but many tournaments cannot afford them - beginning in Hong Kong.

'Any major sporting event would like to get the top players. But it is extremely difficult to attract those sort of players, especially in this economic climate, where it is very difficult to secure sufficient sponsorship,' said Catton.

'We basically have three players who are available [Capriati, Dokic and Davenport] and we still have a few weeks before the tournament starts. If we can secure another sponsor, we will be able to attract another marquee name,' he said.

'But what we have right now is the most competitive field we have ever had. Five players from the field are ranked in the top 20 and any of those top five players are capable of winning.'

Catton said Seles would be welcomed back to Hong Kong as perhaps the most famous name in women's tennis. Former world number one Seles last played in Hong Kong in an exhibition match against Serena Williams at Victoria Park two years ago. Left-handed Seles has won 53 career singles titles. She enjoyed her best year in 1992 when she won three Grand Slams - the Australian, French and US Opens.

'Monica is a nine-time Grand Slam champion and the most determined fighter on the women's tour. She was also recently voted the Sanex Hero of the year. She will be strongly challenged, however, by a host of new young players who are making quite a name for themselves.

'Fans will quickly learn about Anastasia Myskina, the world number 11 player from Russia. Not only has she overtaken Anna Kournikova and Dementieva as Russia's number one, she is not very shy about her appeal off the court either.'

Catton said US star Stevenson, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2000, had demolished Capriati twice in the past two months. Stevenson's other claim to fame is that her biological father is legendary basketball star Julius Erving.

World number 19 Dementieva will return to Hong Kong hoping to go one better than last year when she had Capriati against the ropes before losing the final in three tough sets. A silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics, Dementieva is a power hitter who has had impressive wins over Martina Hingis and is tipped to break into the top 10.

Chinese junior Peng, who trains in Florida, is considered by many to be a potential top 20 star. Sharapova, 15, is also destined for stardom, having the looks and the talent to even outshine fellow Russian Kournikova.

Maleeva will make her Hong Kong debut in the tournament as the world number 14. She ended the season with wins over Venus Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and Davenport.

~SunFlower~
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:16 AM
Tuesday December 10 2002

Time is ripe for Sharapova to oust Kournikova
Unus Alladin

Rising Russian star Maria Sharapova may be ranked only 186th in the world, but do not let her ranking fool you. Few doubt that the 15-year-old will rise to the top and before long challenge the world's best.

Sharapova has already claimed fame by being the youngest ever player to reach the Australian Open Junior finals, the youngest to be ranked in the WTA top 350 and the youngest to make it into the 2002 World Team Tennis draft. Her good looks and obvious talents have been featured in magazines such as Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair and sports channels like ESPN.

But does she have what it takes to threaten the likes of the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati or Lindsay Davenport? Sharapova, who is five-foot-11 and still growing, believes she can. She first has to mature physically, she said. 'I need to get stronger to be able to compete against them [the top players]. They are so strong. But if I grow and my muscles continue to grow, it will be all right. If I do my best, I know I can compete against them. I just need to get physically stronger,' said Sharapova.

'I don't want to say to myself that I must be number 20 in the world in two months. If I play great, good things will happen.'

Modelled on the looks of fellow Russian Anna Kournikova, Sharapova just might be the rising star who will shoot to the top. Like Kournikova she has yet to win a WTA title but she has already tasted victory in the professional ranks. Sharapova has, in fact, won three titles so far. She won challenger tournaments in 2002 Georgia (US), Vancouver and Gunma in Japan in her first year as a professional.

'If I am playing my best and if I play to my greatest [potential], good things will happen. I really want to be number one in the world and to win Grand Slam titles. If I play well, I can do anything,' said Sharapova during a telephone interview yesterday.

'I have always followed my own footsteps and never really had a role model before.'

An American resident for seven years, Sharapova might be the 'new Kournikova' as far as looks are concerned, but Sharapova insists she is her 'own self' and has never thought about comparing herself to her famous compatriot.

'I never really thought about it [being compared to Kournikova]. I do my own thing and concentrate on myself. I try to be myself and not look at anyone,' she said.

She said she was 'working hard' to get into shape for next month's Australian Open and for the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge. She is also excited that she could play against Monica Seles in the Hong Kong tournament for the second time having played the American legend at the Indian Wells Masters this year.

'I didn't do so well against her [she lost 6-0, 6-2] because she's a top player. It was unbelievable. Many people don't get a chance to play her. I have gained a lot of experience from that match,' said Sharapova.

Tickets for the Hong Kong tournament from January 1-4 went on sale yesterday and are priced at $200 for the first two days, and $300 for the third day and the final. Students can enjoy a special discount.

~SunFlower~
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:17 AM
RUBIN SIGNS FOR HK SHOWPIECE
Alvin Sallay

Hong Kong: American tennis star Chanda Rubin was the final piece of the jigsaw that fell into place for the eight-strong Hong Kong Ladies Challenge. Organisers yesterday confirmed that the world number 13 will appear at the January 1-4 event at Victoria Park. The tournament will be headed by nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles of the US. Elena Dementieva, this year's Hong Kong finalist, will return as part of a three-pronged Russian attack, along with world number 11 Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, the world's sixth-ranked junior player. Also turning out will be Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva and American Alexandra Stevenson, along with Chinese junior player Peng Shuai.

disposablehero
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:46 AM
'We approached the Williams sisters and found out that they wanted in excess of $2 million each to play in Hong Kong. That is a lot of money and a sum we simply couldn't afford,' said tournament co-director Terry Catton.

'Both Williams sisters came to our tournament in 1999 when their careers were taking off. They were making a name for themselves at that time, but even then they were expensive.

'At the same time, we tried to invite them back last year and the year before that, but their asking prices were too high.

Yeah, I'm with you. That's pretty poor behaviour

'Two million is a figure that the top men's players like Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi would probably be asking.'
OK, you had me on your side right up til about here.

Messenger
Dec 20th, 2002, 01:53 AM
Well, she didn't say they would actually pay that much for Agassi and Hewitt ;)