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post #1 of 133 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2002, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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2002 Tour Championships

Serena: Sisters aren't appreciated

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- She has won the last three Grand Slam titles and lost only one match since June, yet Serena Williams still feels she and her elder sister, Venus, are not appreciated enough.

Yes, they are athletic. Yes, they hit the ball with a power not seen in the women's game before. But Serena wants more recognition that the Williams sisters use their brains on court and can construct a point as well as anyone.

"I don't get the credit; I use more angles than anyone," said Serena, the world No. 1. "A lot of people started using angles because of me. In that sense, we're not getting credit.

"They're saying we're athletic or run well but don't say: 'That was a good play to hit behind that girl.'"

Responding to a comment made by her mother and sometimes coach, Oracene, that "black people are always just viewed as athletes -- they're strong and tough but can't think," Serena said she thought that her mother was being fair.

"All the commentators say how Venus and I are so athletic," said Serena at a news conference to promote the season-ending WTA Championships in Los Angeles from Nov. 6 to 11.

"They say, 'Look at the athleticism of her game.' It's never she won because she used finesse.

"I don't hit every ball hard. That's what I did when I was losing. When I first broke in the top 100 I stopped that because you can't hit hard like that.

"Some shots I will hit hard but not every ball. I'm not just using my power."

Former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport recently remarked that it was incredible to have two elite athletes from one family at the top of their sport, saying: "Can you imagine Tiger Woods walking down the 18th fairway with his brother battling it out for the victory?"

Serena agreed. "That's the way you have to look at it," Williams said. "We're really fighting. Seeing Tiger -- I guess his brother's name would be 'Bear' -- those two going at it. It's really special and brings a different colour to tennis."

After being upset by Magdalena Maleeva three weeks ago in a Moscow tournament, Venus, ranked second in the world, said she was growing bored with tennis and might need to spend more time with off-court activities to add spice to her life.

Venus lost to Serena in the finals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year.

"It's the fall blues," Serena said. "Everyone's played the Grand Slams, the pressure's off but you have to keep proving yourself at the smaller tournaments and it's hard to get up for them.

"That's been the difference for me this year. I've been able to get up for them even when I didn't want to. Venus will come back strong."

Serena has won eight titles this year and pulled out of three European tournaments this month due to fatigue.

Serena believes her success this year has changed the way the game is played and the way her rivals prepare and has improved standards across the women's tour.

"Yes, just like Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles did," Serena said. "The girls have improved a lot. I see more girls in the gym now. They're getting stronger, which is great for women's tennis because you can see tougher matches.

"The bar's been raised. I've played players I used to have an easy time with but now they've improved."

In 2001 and for the first half of this year, a cluster of players were rivals for the number one spot -- Venus, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis and Davenport.

But after her stellar summer, Serena has pulled away.

"I decided I needed to get more serious," Serena said. "Venus did that a couple years ago. This year I raised my game.

"I was tired of losing to players I shouldn't lose to and there were people ranked ahead of me who shouldn't have been. That was the last straw."

The first player since Hingis in 1997-1998 to win three straight majors, Serena is carrying an aura of near-invincibility. The 20-year-old American is so confident that she believes she can win a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2003.

"I could," she said. "I just have to stay calm and relaxed."

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post #2 of 133 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2002, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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The "Serena era"
Williams on her dominance, the cat suit, Johnny Mac who?, Venus' slump, her 'real self'

By Matthew Cronin
********************

The following are excerpts of a press conference that No. 1 Serena Williams did from the Staples Center to promote the upcoming WTA Home Depot Championships in Los Angeles, Nov. 6-11. Here, Serena discusses her place in history, the history and future of her infamous Cat Suit, acting, Compton and John McEnroe.

Q: Some years ago, you were still living in nearby Compton, playing on neighborhood courts. Can you share a story about when you were growing up there?
Serena: I remember when Venus and I played each other at the Great Western Forum, I was nine, she was 11 and we went on before Connors and McEnroe. So now whenever I'm around a Laker arena, I think of that. I was really excited.

Q: Is it somehow poetic justice that things have flip-flopped. At this year's U.S. Open, when McEnroe played Becker, he was your warm-up act before your final with Venus?
Serena: Who? [laughing].

Q: We've seen [Martina] Navratilova, [Monica] Seles and [Steffi] Graf dominate. Could you dominate like them?
Serena: To even be compared to them is an honor. Hopefully, it could be the "Serena era." That's scary.

Q: Is it kind of scary that you still have a long way to go in your game? You could still work on your volleys and ... ?
Serena: Yeah, volleys and serves. I don't come to net nearly enough. That's scary. I have great volleys and have won five Grand Slam doubles titles. It's not scary for me; it's scary for other people.

Q: Monica Seles indicated that, mentally, you are now the toughest on tour. Do you agree?
Serena: Maybe. I never give up, stay focused and always believe I can win. Even when I lose and am shaking hands with somebody I find it hard to believe.

Q: Off-court, you love to laugh, smile and joke so much. But when you step on court, you're so fierce and serious. What a difference?
Serena: I'm the type of person who believes you should leave everything on court. I leave all my emotions in the match and then, when I step off, I'm done and I'm Serena again. That's why I try to be really tough out there and give everything so when I leave, I know I've given everything.

Q: On a scale of one to 10, where does 2002 rate?
Serena: A seven. I didn't come to the net. I didn't serve great all year.

Q: So then what's a nine or 10 for Serena?
Serena: Net play, more consistency and fewer losses.

Q: You've had such a breakthrough year. Is there one word that defines it?
Serena: Maturity. Having to let go.

Q: Does that feel good?
Serena: Yeah. I'm trying to enjoy the moment because you never know what can happen.

Q: At Wimbledon you noted that you and Venus "have grabbed tennis by the belly button ring and run off with it." Of course, we actually didn't realize tennis had a belly ring?
Serena: I meant that Venus has grabbed me at my belly button ring and we've run off. [Now] people are trying to get at us, clawing at us and trying to grab and pull us back.

Q: A couple of weeks ago, Venus confided that she was tired of the game and wasn't sure if tennis could provide her with enough motivation anymore. She said she maybe needed to pursue some off-court interests.
Serena: It's the fall blues. Everyone's played the Grand Slams, the pressure's off, but you have to keep proving yourself at the smaller tournaments and it's hard to get up for them. That's been the difference for me this year. I've been able to get up for them even when I didn't want to. Venus will come back strong.

Q: Venus was so joyful after her big wins early in her career. Now she appears far more withdrawn. Will you be able to sustain that infectious joy of yours?
Serena: Now, when I win tournaments, I'm not as excited as the first few times. I don't get really excited after a win. Now I get happy during points and get pumped up, but not as much as before. But I don't think my excitement will completely go away because it's part of my personality to pump my fist and scream.

Q: Who's the real Serena?
Serena: I'm really easy going and laid back, but I always have to have something to do. If I have time off, I'll rest for a week, but I always have to have something -- not necessarily tennis, but I have to keep moving. Different things -- acting, modeling, print ads -- I always keep my sketch book with me.

Q: Which Serena do you learn more from, the oncourt Serena or off-court Serena?
Serena: The oncourt because I'm more focused, serious and have a tenacity about me that makes me want to fight.

Q: Will the cat suit come back?
Serena: It might make a reappearance. It's in popular demand right now. People are calling me everyday and begging me to wear it.

Q: Were you surprised by the attention it got?
Serena: I was. I wasn't wearing it to get all that attention. It was Puma's design. I was really nervous wearing it the first night.

Q: What went through your mind opening night at the U.S. Open when you took off your black warm-up jacket and right away all those "oohs" and "aahs" rippled through the crowd?
Serena: I was supposed to practice in it, but I didn't because I procrastinated. I didn't know how it was going to feel, so I was really nervous.

Q: Did you know that Bill Simon, the Republican candidate for governor, has officially come out in support of the cat suit?
Serena: The cat suit has crossed all barriers, sports, political. I'm glad he supports it.

Q: What's the one quality that the public doesn't know about Serena Williams?
Serena: I think the public knows enough about me.

Q: But now you're almost a crossover star -- MTV, general-interest magazine covers, acting in sitcoms.
Serena: Definitely. I've never considered tennis to be my only outlet. I've always done different things because I like to.

Q: How's the acting going?
Serena: Really good. My acting coach is good.

Q: And what's the difference between tennis and acting coaches?
Serena: Acting coaches are more fun. They don't yell. They're easier.

Q: They don't scream "Hey, you didn't nail that line."
Serena: Yeah.

Q: Here's a Charles Barkley question: Are you a role mode?
Serena: Yes. I don't shy away from being a role model. A lot of kids follow Venus and I. We're in a sport where there aren't a lot of people of our color who have done so well and kids might look at us and say, "Hey, we can do it, too." I think I'm a role model for kids of all races and nationalities. It's cool.

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That"s my girl.Next year will be Venus year AGAIN.
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post #4 of 133 (permalink) Old Oct 30th, 2002, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Serena Williams: Wonder woman

CHAMPIONSHIPS PROFILE: SERENA WILLIAMS (USA)

Age:
21

Residence:
Palm Beach Gardens, FL-USA

Height:
5’ 8” (1.73 m)

Weight:
130 lbs (59kg)

Plays:
Right-handed (two-handed backhand)



Prize money (USD)


Career:
9,382,150

2002:
3,275,826



Singles titles


Career:
19

2002:
8



2002 singles highlights


Winner (8):
Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open, Scottsdale, Miami, Italian Open, Tokyo (Princess Cup), Leipzig

Runner-up (1):
German Open




Championships history:
Champion 2001 (qualified 1999 and 2000 but DNP)



Qualification position:
1st (5596 points)


NB: Statistics do not include 2002 Home Depot Championships presented by Porsche


Serena Williams: Wonder woman

What a year Serena Williams has had! The stand-out player of 2002, she started the season ranked No.6, slipped to as low as No.9, but finished a clear-cut No.1.

Luck wasn’t on the American’s side early in the year, spraining her right ankle in the semifinals of Sydney, her first tournament of the year. But after withdrawing from the Australian Open, there was barely a hint of bad news from then on.

Reaching nine finals in her next 11 events, Serena won a Tour-leading eight singles titles coming into LA. Grand Slams at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open came at the expense of older sister Venus in the final each time, becoming the first player since Hingis in 1997 to have such a prosperous Grand Slam season.

Her 21-match win streak from May to August was unsurpassed all year and her $3,275,826 in year-to-date earnings was a million more than anyone else. Indeed, should Serena reach the semifinals or better in LA, the 21-year-old would have amassed more in one season than any other woman in history. Victory would make Serena the first-ever ‘4 Million Dollar Woman’ and tip her over $10 million in career earnings, the 10th woman to reach that magic figure.

Serena is also looking to become the first woman since Steffi Graf (1995/96) to successfully defend her Championships title. Victory in Munich last year came when Lindsay Davenport withdrew due to a knee injury sustained at the end of her three-set semifinal win over Kim Clijsters.[IMG][IMG]



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post #5 of 133 (permalink) Old Oct 30th, 2002, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
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Venus Williams: Gunning for glory



CHAMPIONSHIPS PROFILE: VENUS WILLIAMS (USA)

Age:
22

Residence:
Palm Beach Gardens, FL-USA

Height:
6’ 1” (1.85 m)

Weight:
160 lbs (72.5 kg)

Plays:
Right-handed (two-handed backhand)



Prize money (USD)


Career:
11,377,998

2002:
2,058,661



Singles titles


Career:
28

2002:
7



2002 singles highlights


Winner (7):
Gold Coast, Paris Indoors, Antwerp, Amelia Island, Stanford, San Diego, New Haven

Runner-up (4):
Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open, Hamburg




Championships history:
Semifinalist 1999 (qualified in 2000 and 2001 but DNP)



Qualification position:
2nd (4844 points)


NB: Statistics do not include 2002 Home Depot Championships presented by Porsche


Venus Williams: Gunning for glory

She may have spent much of 2002 accepting Grand Slam runner-up trophies alongside younger sister Serena, but the 22-year-old Venus reached more finals than anyone in 2002, an impressive 11 (winning seven).

For much of 2002, Venus also led the Porsche Race to the Championships, with her seven titles a Tour-best until Serena’s late-season spree in Tokyo and Leipzig. On 25 February, Venus became the 10th woman to be No.1 on the Sanex WTA singles rankings. It was a position she held in three separate reigns for a total of 11 weeks, until Serena ascended the throne after winning Wimbledon in early July.

With four of her eight losses in 2002 occurring against Serena, Venus was unstoppable by all but a few. Her other four losses (Monica Seles – Australian Open QF; Sandrine Testud – Dubai SF; Kim Clijsters – Hamburg final; Magdalena Maleeva – Moscow 2r) were all three-set affairs.

Venus has qualified for the season-ending Championships for the past four years, reaching the semifinals on debut in 1999 but missing 2000 (anemia) and 2001 (left wrist injury). With six of 28 singles titles to date being won indoors, Venus certainly has the ability and experience to add another title to her collection.

A win in Los Angeles would make it a Williams Championships sweep of the past two years, with Serena the reigning titleholder.

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post #6 of 133 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2002, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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WTA Season-Ending Event Launches Web Site

By Brad Falkner
11/01/2002

The Home Depot Championships has a new home on the Internet. The WTA Tour's season-ending event begins next Wednesday, but tournament's web site is accesible now.



The Home Depot Championships web site currently offers ticket information and will feature live scoring, a schedule of play and tournament draws when opening-round action begins next Wednesday.

Top-ranked Serena Williams is the defending champion of the tournament, which returns to the United States after a one-year run in Munich, Germany last year where player participation, attendance and media coverage were all disapointing.

http://www.womenstennischampionships.com/

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post #7 of 133 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2002, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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From the Bob Larson Tennis Newsletter:

Show Some Respect

The WTA's year-end Championships has a problem. It should be a Slam. And it isn't.

We say it should be because indoors is such an important surface (second only to hardcourts, but with more points and more events than clay, let alone grass). A surface this important should have a Slam.

Of course, it can't happen. Not in the ordinary sense. You just can't stage a 128-draw men's and women's event indoors. It's too expensive to build all those courts.

This leads to some indirect ranking problems; the relationships between Slams and Everything Else is driven by the fact that non-Slams have fixed point levels far below the Slams. It distorts the rankings. And, in one sense, it distorts them most indoors, because there is no indoor Slam. (In another sense, it distorts grass the most, but that's another issue.)

So we'll do the only thing we can do in response: In a completely futile gesture, we will determine the seeds for the Los Angeles championships the way they ought to be.

The trick, of course, is to do this fairly. The WTA rankings aren't much help in this regard; they flatly don't rank the players properly. This year, it isn't a problem at the top -- not with Serena Williams so dominant, and Venus the clear #2. Below those two, though, things are a lot less clear.

So we're going to try to produce, first, correct rankings for the WTA's Top 25 (since they are, correct or not, the players going to the Championships, plus the high alternates and the players who are too injured to play). We'll use our standard modified rankings: Slam points multiplied by .8, then take total points and divide by number of tournaments, counting .75 for tournaments over 16. (Minimum divisor of 16 if you're healthy, 12 if you have been injured for at least four consecutive months in the past year.)

That produces the following ranking. This is, very roughly, how the players ought to be ranked if actual performance counted (to our minds, at least, where ability to do well at an event means more than the ability to play any event within plane flight of the last one).


Rank/Player .Events Score
1 S.Williams .13 . 341.8
2 V.Williams .15 . 274.8
3 Capriati ...17 . 193.8
4 Hingis .....12 . 182.9
5 Davenport ...9 . 170.8
6 Mauresmo ...18 . 161.7
7 Seles ..... 14 . 158.6
8 Clijsters . 21 . 149.0
9 Henin ..... 23 . 145.2
10 Rubin ..... 13 . 121.1
11 Hantuchova .24 . 115.6
12 Dokic ..... 29 . 101.5
13 Myskina ... 29 ...76.7
14 Schnyder ...24 ...75.3
15 Maleeva ... 25 ...66.7
16 Farina Elia 29 ...64.2
17 Stevenson . 25 ...64.1
18 Dementieva .26 ...60.5
19 Smashnova . 30 ...58.6
20 Coetzer ... 23 ...57.2
21 Dechy ..... 24 ...56.8
22 Sugiyama ...28 ...48.5
23 Daniilidou .28 ...46.2
24 Kremer .....29 ...45.9
25 Panova .....31 ...41.8

We'll again repeat the advantage of this ranking system: Unlike the WTA's additive rankings, it does not unduly reward endurance over results. And it does not unfairly penalize injured players. But, unlike the old WTA divisor rankings, it does contain an incentive to play more: If you play more than 16 events while maintaining the same level of results, your score will improve, and potentially your ranking as well.

But while this is a good ranking system, and it's even reasonably fair to players who played under Best 17, it isn't actually a good system for grading players indoors.

So we'll apply a trick we've used before: We'll double the players' indoor points. And we'll increase the divisor by half their number of indoor events.

We don't know if you want to see this documented. So we'll err on the side of brevity and not do it, even though it means that we have to make this into one column instead of two. (Never complain that we don't give you extra for your money.)


Rank/Player .Events .InPts InEv . Score
1 S.Williams .13 .....794 ...2 . 368.4
2 V.Williams .15 .....602 ...3 . 285.6
3 Davenport ...9 ... 1013 ...4 . 218.7
4 Hingis .....12 .....414 ...3 . 193.2
5 Capriati ...17 .....186 ...4 . 183.1
6 Clijsters . 21 ... 1013 ...6 . 173.8
7 Seles ..... 14 .....373 ...2 . 171.2
8 Mauresmo ...18 .....557 ...5 . 169.4
9 Henin ..... 23 .....959 ...7 . 163.4
10 Hantuchova .24 .....592 ...6 . 125.4
11 Rubin ..... 13 .....160 ...3 . 119.6
12 Dokic ..... 29 .....477 ...9 . 102.2
13 Schnyder ...24 .....531 ...4 ...91.1
14 Stevenson . 25 .....900.75 7 ...89.8
15 Maleeva ... 25 .....823 . 10 ...84.3
16 Myskina ... 29 .....314 ...6 ...79.6
17 Farina Elia 29 .....581 . 10 ...72.6
18 Dementieva .26 .....467 ...8 ...68.7
19 Coetzer ... 23 .....390 ...6 ...66.2
20 Smashnova . 30 .....209 ...4 ...61.8
21 Dechy ..... 24 .....206 ...6 ...58.3
22 Kremer .....29 .....275 ...8 ...48.9
23 Sugiyama ...28 ..... 74 ...4 ...47.6
24 Panova .....31 .....269 ...5 ...47.3
25 Daniilidou .28 ..... 30.75 6 ...42.3

In this table, "Rank/Player" of course is the player and the rank according to which she should be seeded at the Championships. "Events" is the total events she played. "InPts" is the total points she earned at her indoor events (if it's of any interest, the most indoor-heavy player on our list is Stevenson, with nearly two-thirds of her points indoors; obviously Daniilidou is the most extreme indoor-hater). "InEv" is the number of events each player played indoors. And "Score" is, obviously, the player's score under our elaborate ranking system.

We note that the WTA's arbitrary promotion of Davenport to the co-#3 ranking is actually correct in context: Based on her per-tournament scores and her indoor results, she should be seeded for the semifinal -- which is what will happen. Hingis and Mauresmo don't count, since they're not playing. That means that all other seedings will also be correct: Serena seeded to win, Venus for the final, Capriati and Davenport for the semifinal, Clijsters, Seles, Henin, and Hantuchova for the quarterfinal, and the rest unseeded.

The WTA really got lucky this time. Of course, there is the matter that Stevenson, with 25 events, should have gotten into the Championships rather than Smashnova, who got in mostly on the strength of playing a Top Twenty-leading 30 tournaments....

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post #8 of 133 (permalink) Old Nov 4th, 2002, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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Women's Look Forward: Week of November 4
Posted on 11/3/2002 at 3:33 PM


**Women's Look Forward: Los Angeles Championships, Pattaya


If the men were to adopt a motto for their year-end championships, it would probably be something like, "And now, for something completely different" The women's philosophy is quite otherwise: "The same, only better";

In theory, the year-end championships is the strongest event in the world. Injuries being what they are, it won';t quite work out that way -- but it's still true that there is no tournament where every match features so many strong players. If you're here, you're Top Twenty. Simple as that.

Frankly, from the standpoint of rewarding success, the WTA way makes more sense than the ATP version: Players qualify for the championships by playing single-elimination tournaments. So the championships should be a single-elimination tournament. The same logic argues that the final should be, as it has been recently, best of three: The women don't ever play best of five, so how can they practice for it? (And it hasn't really made much difference, either: From the time the Championships went to best of five in 1984 to the year they abandoned it in 1998, there was only one instance when the player who was down after three sets went on to win the match: Monica Seles took out Gabriela Sabatini 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-2 in 1990. What we did see was a lot of ugly endings: Martina Hingis cramping against Steffi Graf in 1996. Mary Pierce fading away against Jana Novotna in 1997. Lindsay Davenport obviously running out of gas in the fourth set in 1998.)

But if the WTA Championships is the sameas every other event on the WTA (single elimination, best of three), it really is the same only betterThe field is the best it can possibly be. The points are bigger than any one-week event. And the prize money -- well, the eight first round losers make more than most of us make in a year.

An interesting twist on all of this is that the first singles matches won't start until Wednesday. In a 16-draw, that's not unreasonable -- but it';s going to be a busy end-of-the week!

We also note, with surprise, that Lindsay Davenport is not being seeded according to her special rank. We're not sure why, since injury rankings usually last six months. That sets up one of the best early round matches, since she opens against Monica Seles! And #6 seed Seles, who has reportedly been suffering from a foot injury, hasn't played an indoor match this fall (though she went 6-2 in indoor matches last winter). Davenport has gone 7-3 this year, but of course has no titles. And while Davenport has a huge head-to-head lead, they haven't faced each other in a year and a half. And there is one small twist here: As best we can tell, every one of their meetings has been won by the higher-ranked player -- and right now, that's Seles.

There are a couple of fairly routine first rounders on the schedule: #1 Serena Williams opens against Anna Smashnova. Smashnova is among the lowest-ranked players here, and she doesn't like indoors much; even in this, the best year of her career (and certainly her best indoor year), she's only 4-4, though she has some pretty good scalps in those four wins: Patty Schnyder, Chanda Rubin, Meghann Shaughnessy, and Elena Dementieva.

Also likely to be routine is the match between Venus Williams and Patty Schnyder. True, Venus is said to be tired (don't ask us how anyone can still be tired after playing only one match since the U. S. Open), and Schnyder won Zurich -- but overall, Venus likes indoors much better.

The other first round matches all have interesting aspects, though. #8 seed Jelena Dokic opens against Anastasia Myskina in a contest pitting the two most absurdly over-playing women in the Top Fifteen. Dokic, who has been suffering emotional distractions, has also shown clear signs of running out of gas. She beat Myskina at Hamburg and Birmingham and San Diego -- but Myskina had the last laugh at Bahia, and also won at Rome. Though Myskina also seems to be running out of gas -- since reaching the Leipzig final, she's gone 2-4, and three of her four losses have been to non-Top 20 players.

#3 Jennifer Capriati ought to be able to wipe the floor with Silvia Farina Elia, especially since Farina Elia will be still adjusting after Fed Cup. But Capriati has never had much success indoors in her career -- and this year, she's 1-3, with her only win being over clay-loving Paola Suarez and all three of her losses being to non-Top 20 players (though two of them were to Alexandra Stevenson, and those two wins put Stevenson in the Top 20). Farina isn't all that happy indoors, either (apart from her Fed Cup losses, she was 5-6 indoors this fall) -- but she did make the Pan Pacific semifinal.

Perhaps the best first round contest will be between #7 Daniela Hantuchova and Magdalena Maleeva. Hantuchova has had solid indoor results, but she's definitely tired and she will be just in from Fed Cup. Maleeva once again showed her indoor prowess at Moscow. Hantuchova is the better all-around player, but Maleeva has been here before.

#5 Kim Clijsters is probably at her best indoors, and has two titles this year. Chanda Rubin got off to a very slow indoor start but eventually made the Linz semifinal. This may come down to who is feeling better.

The final first-rounder is a big contrast in style: #4 Justine Henin versus Elena Dementieva. Dementieva's game is clearly more attuned to indoors, and she has made the semifinal here (Henin's best result is a quarterfinal last year, and that was against Anke Huber, who was the lowest-ranked player in the draw and who was nervous about retirement). But Henin is improving, at least slightly, this year, and Dementieva has regressed. And Henin probably feels more confident. And she's the sort of opponent Dementieva hates. Their head-to-head doesn't tell us much -- Henin was won both meetings, but they were on Rebound Ace and grass, both Henin surfaces. Still, Dementieva has yet to take a set off Henin.

In the quarterfinal, barring major upsets, we would see

(1) Serena vs. (8) Dokic or Myskina
(3) Capriati vs. (7) Hantuchova or Maleeva
(5) Clijsters vs. (4) Henin
(6) Seles or Davenport vs. (2) Venus

Serena seems pretty well set. Venus -- who, after all, lost in Moscow to Maleeva -- seems less secure. Clijsters and Henin have never met indoors, and Henin won their meeting this year at Rome -- but overall, Clijsters leads 4-2 over the past three years, and Henin's two wins were on clay and grass. Clijsters seems pretty secure. The big contest of the quarterfinal is really the Capriati match: Indoors, both Hantuchova and Maleeva are better than the Australian Open winner. But it's Hantuchova's first Championships, and Maleeva has never won a match here. Can Capriati exploit?

By the time we get to the semifinals, our crystal ball just doesn't have the juice to give us even a guess as to what will happen....

The doubles is unusually wide-open. Last year's winners, Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs, are playing their last event together, and haven't been doing at all well of late. Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez, the top team of this year, doesn't like indoors. The teams of Hingis/Kournikova (who have two titles and no losses at this event) and Williams/Williams aren't here -- the former because of injury, the latter because they don't play enough. Daniela Hantuchova and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario were playing last week when everyone else had the week off, and Hantuchova looked tired even before Fed Cup. Janette Husarova, who plays with Elena Dementieva, was also active in the Fed Cup final. The rest of the teams here just haven't been in the same league; even Cara Black and Elena Likhovtseva, last year's finalists, have looked weak, and Arendt/Huber and Lee/Prakusya really don't have any big results. Fujiwara and Sugiyama have been steady, but again, no really big wins. It's the most wide-open doubles event in years -- and one with an unusual number of doubles specialists. Only Hantuchova and Dementieva are in both singles and doubles, and Hingis should have been. Last year, there were three players in both (Coetzer, Tauziat, Testud), and Hingis probably would have been in both also. The year before that, five players were in both (Hingis, Halard-Decugis, Tauziat, Likhovtseva, Kournikova), and Rubin and Testud should have been. This is starting to look ATP-like in the separation into singles and doubles specialists.

In the shadow of that, Pattaya isn't much. This is axiomatic: If the Top 20 are all in the Championships, or wishing they were, then they aren't in the far east. And with the Asian hardcourt season shortened this year, a lot of players didn't stick around in Asia for the last event of the year. It showed. When the qualifying draw came out, the top four seeds all had first round byes, and one first round match had both players taken from the draw (one promoted and the other withdrawn and not replaced), and of the 28 players in the draw, the author (who examines every singles draw at $50K and larger Challengers) could recognize only 13 of the names, and 10 of the 28 players were ranked below #400. Most of the main draw names were familiar, but they aren't the sorts to get much TV coverage: Only two players (#1 seed Tatiana Panova and #2 Tamarine Tanasugarn) are Top Fifty, and ten uninjured players made it into the main draw despite being ranked below #100.

And yet, there are interesting aspects to this draw. Not many, but some. Lina Krasnoroutskaya, who was Gold Exempt this year but injured almost the whole time, is in as a wildcard. #3 seed Henrieta Nagyova is a past champion, and she and countrywoman Martina Sucha are just in from the Fed Cup final. Shinobu Asagoe showed in 2000-2001 that she is better than her ranking. Angelique Widjaja is a significant prospect.

And the draw did an amazing job of putting the seeds under pressure. #1 Panova is pretty safe; she opens against a qualifier, then Tatiana Poutchek of Zsofia Gubacsi, both slumping. But #2 seed Tanasugarn, who has never done well at her national tournament, opens against the top unseeded player, Rossana Neffa-de los Rios. #3 seed Nagyova hits Krasnoroutskaya -- who, based on her 2001 results, looks like the best player here -- in the opener. #4 seed Anca Barna doesn't have it too bad in the first round, but could face Asagoe in the second. #5 seed Sucha, who like Nagyova is sure to be jet lagged, will start against Widjaja. #7 seed Denisa Chladkova opens against Alicia Molik, who last year was Top 50. With Los Angeles overshadowing the field, there probably won't be many stories from Pattaya. But it's probably better than you think it is.

The Rankings. This year's championships is a bit different from past years, since the points from last year are already off. That cost Lindsay Davenport, dropping her to #12, and even Serena Williams saw her margin over sister Venus get chopped in half. There will be no defending points this time. They just add. (At least for the top contenders: Davenport and the Sisters, as well as Capriati and Seles. Players with a lot of events, like Jelena Dokiva and Anastasia Myskina, will see points come out of their Best 17.)

The Championships is listed as having three-quarters the points of a Slam. It doesn't, actually -- it has three quarters of the round points, but quality points are not multiplied as they are at a Slam. The net result is more on the order of two-thirds of a Slam. It's still the biggest non-Slam on the Tour. The winner here, even if she plays only the lowest-ranked opponents, should pick up at least 625 points. And it's more likely to be in the 650-750 point range.

In theory, that meant the #1 ranking could be on the line, because Serena Williams leads sister Venus by 752. But in reality, it won't come up. For one thing, Serena gets 67 points just for showing up. And in the actual draw, Venus can't get maximum points anyway. So our Top Two are set: Serena and Venus. There is an actual contest for #3, though, with Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters and Monica Seles and Daniela Hantuchova all theoretically capable of making it. In practice, it's unlikely that any of them will. But the #4 ranking, currently held by Justine Henin, is legitimately in play, as is everything else down to #9, currently held by Jelena Dokic. Dokic can't really hope for #4, but she could certainly move ahead of Seles or Hantuchova or even Clijsters.

Martina Hingis is currently #10, and she has a chance to hold that spot. She leads new #11 Anastasia Myskina by 474 points -- and Myskina has seventeenth tournament points, so Myskina must actually earn 507 points to top Hingis. That means, to hit the Top Ten, Myskina must either reach the final, beating Serena Williams in the quarterfinal, or she must win Los Angeles.

Uh-huh.

#12 Lindsay Davenport comes in 620 points behind Hingis. That means her only hope is to win Los Angeles. She has done it before, so it's possible (we'd certainly rate her chances above Myskina's, even though she has to do more), but it seems a pretty poor bet.

Theoretically, Patty Schnyder and Chanda Rubin could also grab the #10 spot by winning Los Angeles and beating lots of top players. But what are the odds?

The doubles rankings are about as much up in the air -- i.e. not very. Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual have clinched the top spots. Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs are the defending champions, and the loss of those points means that Janette Husarova, under ideal circumstances, might be able to reach #3 -- but she has to win the thing. Raymond and Stubbs have clinched #4 and #5. (It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year, with this team splitting; Raymond is supposed to play with Lindsay Davenport, but Davenport doesn't play doubles as much as Raymond.) Below that, the #6-#12 spots are all in play. There are good chances here for Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Daniela Hantuchova, assuming they can survive their troubles from Fed Cup. Also watch out for Ai Sugiyama. We'll offer more details as the week progresses.

It does not appear that Pattaya can affect the Top 20 in any way; even if Tatiana Panova wins the thing, the points aren't there.

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Venus gets one last shot at sister Serena
7 minutes ago
By Steve Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Venus Williams (news - web sites) will have one last chance to get the better of little sister Serena when the top-ranked tennis siblings take to the court this week for the season-ending WTA Championships.



But as the curtain comes down on the season there are fears the richest event in women's tennis will end the same way as the last three grand slams -- in a family feud with another all-Williams final and defending champion Serena pocketing the winner's share ($765,000) of the $3 million purse.


Fourteen other players have been invited to participate in the WTA's showcase event and all will be hoping Serena and Venus, having seen limited action since they clashed in the final of the U.S. Open (news - web sites), will be rusty and distracted.


Citing fatigue, Serena has not played since early October, withdrawing from events in Filderstadt, Zurich and Linz after claiming her season-leading eighth title in Leipzig.


But the world number one has hardly been at home in Florida recharging her batteries.


Having rocketed up the tennis rankings and the celebrity ladder, the muscular Williams is now a member of Hollywood's A-list and is seen out on the town attending award shows, movie premieres and other high profile non-sporting events.


The younger Williams also recently made a guest appearance as a kindergarten teacher on the television show "My Wife and Kids", and according to reports in the Los Angeles press is keeping herself busy by taking acting lessons.


Still, despite the distractions, there will be few willing to bet against a well-rested and fully motivated Serena, who has utterly dominated the sport this season, winning eight events and 36 of her last 37 matches, including consecutive grand slam triumphs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon (news - web sites).


Another victory at the WTA Championships will help the 21-year-old Williams become the first women's tennis player to win $4 million in a single season.


HUGE HONOUR


"I'm really excited about going to Los Angeles this year and to win there would be the icing on the cake for me," said Serena. "It is a huge honour to play in the Staples Center and I think it will really make all of us want to put on a good show."

The WTA will be desperately hoping for "a good show", having hastily brought its season-ending extravaganza back to the U.S. after the event flopped miserably in Munich last year.

The largest and most lucrative women-only sporting event in the world, the Championships had been a popular fixture at New York's Madison Square Garden from 1979 to 2000.

But the decision to move the event to Germany proved a poor one. The tournament attracted little interest as the season drew to an anti-climactic close, Serena taking the title without lifting a racket when Lindsay Davenport was forced to withdraw from the final through injury.

Now back in the U.S., a line-up top heavy with Americans will ensure crowds at the 20,000-seat Staples Center will have plenty to cheer when play begins on Wednesday.

As always, Serena's major competition is likely to be provided by her lanky sister and world number two Venus, who is back at the event for the first time in three years after illness and injuries kept her on the sidelines in 2000 and 2001.

While Venus's year was overshadowed by her sister's amazing accomplishments, her season was not without its successes, having captured seven titles and more than $2 million in prize money.

Australian Open (news - web sites) winner Jennifer Capriati will also be hungry to end a string of frustrating defeats at the hands of the Williams sisters and finish her season the way it began, on a positive note.

Monica Seles, three times a winner of the event, is back. She refused to compete in Germany as a protest over the handling of the case involving the stalker who stabbed her in the back in Hamburg and drove her from the game for several years.

The Williams sisters will also have to be wary of the hard-hitting Davenport, who is back near top form after missing most of the season with injury, and Chanda Rubin, the only player to beat Serena in her last 37 matches.

Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters lead the foreign challenge, the two Belgians riding the momentum of recent confidence-boosting wins at the Generali and Seat Opens respectively.

Russians Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva, young Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, Yugoslavia's Jelena Dokic, Italy's Silvia Farina Elia, Swiss Patty Schnyder, Israel's Anna Smashnova and Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva complete the elite field.

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Serena, Venus poised for one more sisterly showdown
Copyright © 2002 Nando Media
Copyright © 2002 Agence France-Presse

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Serena and Venus Williams, who met in three of this year's four Grand Slam finals, are poised to repeat the pattern in the season-ending WTA Tour Championships that start on Wednesday.

Younger sister Serena - winner at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open - will try to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1995-96 to successfully defend her championships title.

Elder sister Venus, who reached a tour-best 11 finals this year and won seven, returns to the season finale for the first time since 1999 after missing 2000 with anemia and 2001 with a left wrist injury.

Jennifer Capriati is the third seed and the 26-year-old American seeks to improve upon a trio of quarterfinal finishes in this elite event, open to the top 16 singles players on the WTA Tour and the top eight doubles teams.

If the seeding stands up, Serena Williams would face Capriati in the semifinals and Venus Williams would face fourth-seeded Belgian Justine Henin.

There are two rounds to get through before that, with second-seeded Venus facing a tricky opener on Wednesday night against Switzerland's Patty Schnyder.

Also slated to play Wednesday are good friends Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport - both former world No. 1's - while Belgian Kim Clijsters takes on American Chanda Rubin and Russian Elena Dementieva faces Henin.

Serena Williams is scheduled to open her defense on Thursday against Israel's Anna Smashnova. Capriati will take on Italian Silvia Farina Elia, Russian Anastasia Myskina plays Yugoslav Jelena Dokic and Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva faces Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova.

The draw was no gift for sixth-seeded Seles and Davenport. Seles hasn't played since the week after the U.S. Open because of injuries, while Davenport has been playing often in order to qualify for this event, which has moved from Munich last year to just up the freeway from her Laguna Beach home.

Venus Williams last played on October 3, when she lost to Magdalena Maleeva in Moscow. Schnyder beat Davenport in three sets to win in Zurich last month.

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Monday, November 4

Once again, the Williams sisters are the favorites

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com


A week ago, there was a remarkable scramble for the last three spots in the WTA Tour's season-ending championship.

Anna Smashnova, Maggie Maleeva and Elena Dementieva -- playing in Linz, Austria and Luxembourg -- produced enough points to secure spots in the $3 million tournament that begins Wednesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

And what fate awaits them in the 16-player event? Probably the same as the 14 athletes who are not named Williams -- abject defeat.

Serena and Venus Williams are the top-seeded players in the six-day event that culminates in the Monday championship final. Is there a single reason for say, Jennifer Capriati or Justine Henin, to believe the sisters won't be in this one? In a word, no. The sisters Williams have already reached the finals in three of the four 2002 Grand Slam singles events. Serena, 21, scorched Venus, 22, in all three -- in straight sets, no less.

Serena, who opens play Thursday in the single-elimination event against Smashnova, has won her past four matches against her older sister. If she is on her game -- never a guarantee before this season -- she should prevail. And if she is focused on her fledgling acting career and unveiling a second-generation cat suit? It hardly matters, for she still will finish the season at No. l.

Her 5,596 championship points in the WTA Tour ranking race are insurmountable. Even if Venus, who meets Patty Schnyder on Wednesday, were to win the event and the 485 points that go with it and Serena was inexplicably shut out, Venus (4,844 points) would fall short.

"The last couple of years haven't been her best years," Venus said of Serena after losing the U.S. Open final, "so I think she was really rejuvenated and really motivated to come out here and play well this year. She had a lot to play for."

Said Serena, "I was just tired of losing. It's not that I thought I could win all three (Slams), I just said, 'I'm tired of losing. I'm not going to lose any more.' Life was passing me by."

For all the success the sisters have had, neither has ever previously held the No.1 ranking at the end of a season. After Steffi Graf abdicated the throne in 1996 after holding the No. 1 ranking for eight of 10 years, Hingis and Lindsay Davenport held that spot for the last five years.

The championship points totals underline the dominance the Williams' enjoy on the women's circuit. Jennifer Capriati, the only non-Williams to win a Grand Slam -- in an exhausting, heat-stroked Australian Open final over Martina Hingis -- is third in the standings with 3,520 points, a staggering gap of 1,324 points behind Venus. That's more than the total for two Grand Slam titles.

The rest of the field that will be in action this week: No. 4 Justine Henin (3,133), No. 6 Kim Clijsters (2,838), No. 7 Monica Seles (2,796), No. 8 Daniela Hantuchova (2,640), No. 9. Jelena Dokic (2,403), No. 11 Anastasia Myskina (1,874), No. 12 Davenport (1,728), No. 13 Schnyder (1,701), No. 14 Chanda Rubin (1,685), No. 15 Silvia Farina Elia (1,569), No. 16 Smashnova (1,551), No. 17 Maleeva (1,539), No. 19 Dementieva (1,393).

Missing are No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo (3,068) and No. 10 Hingis (2,348). Hingis, who has suffered through a difficult season, withdrew from the tournament in mid-October. Hingis missed six tournaments, including the French Open and Wimbledon, with a left ankle injury. She came back in mid-August -- too soon, she said in retrospect. After withdrawing, Hingis underwent surgery and one torn tendon and three loose ones were repaired.

Mauresmo, who defeated Capriati in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, injured her knee practicing for the October event in Zurich and also pulled out of Los Angeles.

The feel-good story at the Staples Center is Davenport, who lives in nearby Laguna Beach. After serious knee surgery in January, Davenport joined the WTA Tour in July and reached four finals, losing them all. At the U.S. Open she lost to Serena, but rallied late in the season to qualify for the year-end tournament that was originally scheduled for Munich, Germany.

"I still think I'm a little ways off from where I'd like to be or where I can be or where I think I was," Davenport said.

The luck of the draw, such that it is, pits Davenport against her good friend Seles in the first round. Davenport's game is in good shape; she reached the finals in Moscow and Zurich last month and made the semifinals of the Filderstadt, Germany, tournament. Seles, who has struggled with injuries, hasn't played since the U.S. Open.

Venus Williams, too, has been in remission. She hasn't played since Oct. 3 when she fell to Maleeva in the Moscow final.

Serena also will be well-rested. After the U.S. Open, she played Tokyo and Leipzig, Germany, in September and took her seventh and eighth titles of the season. She then withdrew from three tournaments citing fatigue. After five weeks off, Serena should be ready to finish the job properly.

"The difference is I'm a bit more mature and I'm more relaxed," Serena said after winning the U.S. Open. "I'm a better player -- obviously. I just have more fun with what I do. I'm not as stressed out there as I used to be."

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(Home Depot Championships, Los Angeles)
City of Hope charity fundraising dinner - Alexandra Stevenson chats with Venus Williams

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Serena in USA Today

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Sisters make first year-end appearance together

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com


LOS ANGELES -- It's a Williams bookmark Championships with one on either end of the draw. Venus Williams did not play last year. Serena Williams did not play in the two years before that because of injuries. It will be the first time they are both in the draw.

Serena made an interesting decision to cancel all her tournaments the past five weeks. She was busy in L.A. making an appearance on the TV show "My Wife and Kids." So she's been having fun doing other stuff.

I suspect that given her success this year, her time off won't be a problem. On paper she has the easiest first round against Anna Smashnova, who is making her debut at the season-ending event. But Serena is probably the favorite to repeat as champion. Don't expect her to have a lot of trouble with Smashnova, who likes to get a lot of balls back and doesn't really have a weapon.

The best of the first-round matches is between Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles. Because her ranking dropped due to injury, we knew that Davenport wouldn't be seeded. But you know that no one in the top eight would want to play her in the opening round.

Davenport has played consistently well since recovering from knee surgery -- the only thing she hasn't done is to win a title. She's been in four finals and should have won three of them as she lost to Chanda Rubin in Los Angeles, Maggie Maleeva in Moscow and Patty Schnyder in Zurich.

Davenport is close to home here and loves indoor play. She's the third favorite behind Venus and Serena. She's so excited to have qualified -- I mean when you start in July and everyone else starts earning points in January, that's a hell of a start to give everybody.

Seles got an apartment in L.A. to concentrate on preparing for the Championships. So she's put a lot into this and is probably disappointed by the draw. Although, she's probably enjoyed just having a different place to train.

Davenport leads their head-to-head matchups, 9-2. Davenport's beaten Seles six times in a row. But it's a great first-round meeting and will be the live featured match tonight (8:30 ET, ESPN2).

Venus plays Schnyder -- kind of an awkward opponent, who along with Seles are the only lefties in the field. It will be interesting to see Venus' attitude, whether she's feeling a little bit beaten down after watching her sister fly by this year. She's been almost complacent recently. She's only lost one set out of nine to Schnyder, so Venus has a good first round. But if Venus doesn't have a positive vibe -- a want to be out there -- Seles and Davenport are in her part of the draw and they are a couple of good warriors.

Jennifer Capriati has had a really poor post-U.S. Open indoor season. She's another one you want to look for her mood and see how she's competing. She has a pretty easy first round against Italian veteran Silvia Farina Elia. The match will be an opportunity to judge if she's ready to mix it up with the Williams sisters again and end her year on the positive note that it started on in Australia.

I love the matchup between Kim Clijsters and Chanda Rubin. Clijsters struggled in the first half of the year but got things going in the second half of the season. Rubin, who along with Davenport is the comeback player of the year after knee surgery. If Rubin's playing like she did this summer, she'll give everybody a tough match.

Daniela Hantuchova is in her first Championships and faces Maleeva. Hantuchova is one of the three teenagers in the draw going up against someone who has been around pro tennis for as long as she can remember because her older sisters played.

Elena Dementieva has had a disappointing year. She just kind of limped into the Championships. She didn't progress the way she hoped. She faces Justine Henin, who can either be brilliant or she can go out there with so many shots, so many choices that she can't put it all together. Anytime she plays, though, you're going to see an entertaining match with a wide-variety of shots.

Anastasia Myskina and Jelena Dokic will face off in their sixth meeting since Hamburg in May -- that's really unusual. Dokic leads the series 3-2. Myskina is the one who has improved more. This is anybody's match, but Myskina might upset Dokic.

One word about Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo who will be absent this year. This is two straight years for Hingis, who has been out with foot problems. And Mauresmo had such a great year, it's just too bad that she's not in there.

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Cat's Meow

Serena Williams a heavy favorite to win WTA Championship in L.A. sanex championships


Story and player capsules by Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE Staff writer

November 5, 2002

"Return of the Cat Woman." She's Serena Williams. She has several roles, a feline impersonation being just one of them. She acts. She studies art. She's irrepressible. And she is altering how some women dress for tennis.

No dainty frocks for Serena. Through her procession through this year's U.S. Open, the junior of the Williams sisters wore an outfit that she might have borrowed from somebody in the cast of "Cats," the musical.

Now the tension builds. How will Serena present herself when she competes in the $3 million WTA Championships, beginning tomorrow at the Staples Center in Los Angeles? No one can say. How she will play is more predictable. If anyone other than Serena goes away with the $750,000 first prize in these Home Depot Championships presented by Porsche, it will be an upset comparable to a cat becoming pals with a dog.

Meantime, cat suits are hot items. At the Puma outlet at South Coast Plaza in Orange County, a woman who answered the telephone yesterday said the store is sold out of the model Serena wore at Flushing Meadows.

Serena is dressed by Puma. In Carlsbad, there is a Puma store on Paseo Del Norte. No, said Marisa Ditimus, the store's assistant manager, the store does not have the cat suit in stock, but it carries Serena's line and it is going well.

"It's really flashy," said Ditimus, "lots of gold and white and orange." Yes, she said, women are coming in and asking for the cat suit.

For Serena, winning the final event of the WTA Tour's season would give her four straight major championships, she having swept the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, in each one defeating sister Venus in the final.

This time, Raquel Giscafre, a onetime tennis tourist who is an officer of Promotion Sports Inc., which presents the Acura Classic at La Costa, said she gives Venus a big chance.

"I wouldn't write her off," said Giscafre. "She is a very good player who has had plenty of rest."

Venus' recent appearances have been few. "Emotionally, losing to her sister had to be very tough for her," said Giscafre, who also fancies the chances at the Staples Center of Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

"She has a good game for indoors," Giscafre said of Hantuchova. "She is very versatile; she can come in. She hits flat; she can really rush an opponent. I really love her game."

The Staples Center event is limited to the 16 women who scored best during the year in the Porsche Race to the Championships. Two of the qualifiers have had to be replaced – Martina Hingis, idled by a foot problem, and Amelie Mauresmo, who cited inflamed cartilage in her right knee in withdrawing.

Should there by any additional withdrawals, Alexandra Stevenson of San Diego, the No. 1 alternate, would join the field for an event in which first-round losers receive $45,000. Stevenson mounted a surge at the Generali Ladies Linz, an indoor competition in Austria. She had victories over Anastasia Myskina of Russia, Hantuchova and Jennifer Capriati before losing to Justine Henin of Belgium in the final.

1. Serena Williams

She is to women's tennis what Barry Bonds is to baseball, but Bonds doesn't have her advantages. You can't walk tennis players. For anyone other than Serena to capture this event would represent an upset of the most pronounced sort. The junior of the Williams sisters has run the table in the last three Grand Slam events – the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open – in each of those tournaments outplaying her sister in the final. In all, she has won seven championships. Entering the Staples Center event, she has to be considered among the finest women players ever. What athleticism! And she is only 21.

2. Venus Williams

Her height, her reach, her power and her strokes are still there. It's her enthusiasm for tennis that can be questioned. After the U.S. Open, she said she had wearied of the travel and the constant scrutiny that are part and parcel of participating on the women's tour. Losing to a younger sibling in three straight Grand Slam finals can be deflating. If her focus is there, Venus is a factor in this one. She has, after all, been a finalist 11 times in 2002, or more than anyone, with seven triumphs, including at La Costa. But since Flushing Meadows, she has been a no-show. Does she still want it? The question remains.

3. Jennifer Capriati

After outlasting Martina Hingis in an Australian Open final played in searing heat, Capriati had captured three of five Grand Slam events. She then was a semifinalist at Wimbledon, losing to Amelie Mauresmo. She fell to Mauresmo again in the U.S. Open after serving for the match in the second set. From there, her performances have fallen off. She comes into this event following an unrewarding indoor season. Nor has she ever done well in the WTA Champion-ships, never progressing past the quarterfinals. She must raise the recent level of her game to contend in Los Angeles.

4. Justine Henin

If Steffi Graf was Fraulein Forehand, Henin is Madame Backhand. She hits it with one hand, which few women do, and she hits it with great overspin and accuracy. Women's tennis has a first flight made up of the Williams sisters, Capriati, Lindsay Davenport and, when she is fit, Martina Hingis. Henin, soon to be a bride, is at the forefront of the second flight. She has not broken through in a major event, but a fast indoor surface should suit her. Her best results have been at Wimbledon.

5. Kim Clijsters

The sturdy 19-year-old from Belgium is a three-time winner this season and a three-time finalist. Hers has been an in-and-out year, but she would seem to be peaking. Indoors, she reached the semifinals at Leipzig, then defeated Davenport, Mauresmo and Daniela Hantuchova in consecutive three-setters to prevail at Filderstadt. In Luxembourg, she won again, surrendering only 14 games – the fewest of any tour champion in 2002. Should you be looking this week for the hot hand, here it is.

6. Monica Seles

Her story is the stuff of tragedy as it is played out in the theater – of a person striving with all her might to avert a denouement that has been preordained. Seles has been unable to lift her career to where it had been before her stabbing in Germany in April 1993, but she keeps trying. She can be a championship factor. She bested Hingis in this year's U.S. Open and scored two tournament triumphs – at Doha and Madrid. She won the WTA Championship in 2000.

7. Daniela Hantuchova

The willowly young woman from Slovakia comes to L.A. from the Canary Islands after joining Janette Husarova to capture the Fed Cup for her country. Hantuchova, 19, underscored her potential when she roundly outplayed Hingis in the final in winning at Indian Wells in March as a No. 18 seed . Hantuchova has failed to score a second time, but she has been a finalist three times.

8. Jelena Dokic

This has been Dokic's first full year in the top 10. Her ranking has been as high as No. 4. Through the season's last half, she was complaining of fatigue, but she kept showing up for the next tournament, and the next. At La Costa, she defeated both Capriati and Anna Kournikova before falling to Venus Williams in the final.

9. Anastasia Myskina

She is one of three players competing in the WTA Championships for the first time (Anna Smashnova and Hantuchova being the others). Myskina, from Moscow, is not a big hitter, but she knows how to win. Consider her performance at New Haven, where she upset both Henin and Hingis.

10. Lindsay Davenport

After not joining the tour until July while she convalesced following knee surgery, Davenport made it her quest to qualify for this event. And here she is. She had to default to Serena Williams in last year's final in Germany after injuring a knee in a semifinal escape against Clijsters. In 1999, Davenport won this event. A player with reach, a strong serve, excellent service returns and a sweetheart backhand, the Southern California woman will have many supporters at the Staples Center.

11. Silvia Farina Elia

As Mrs. Elia, she has performed more strongly than she did as Silvia Farina. The Italian woman (with residences in Milan and Rome) was married to Francesco Elia, her coach, in 1999. In October 2001, then 29, she gained her highest singles ranking, No. 14, an improvement from the No. 69 she had been the previous year.

12. Chanda Rubin

The WTA Tour's web site is conducting a poll: Name this tournament's darkhorse. Rubin is a candidate, a strong one. Like Davenport, she is coming off knee surgery, but she has not been slowed. She won on the grass at Eastbourne, becoming only the second unseeded player to score there in 27 years. On hardcourts, she got past Serena Williams at Manhattan Beach, then outplayed Davenport in the final. At the U.S. Open, she twice came within a point of serving for the match against Venus Williams.

13. Patty Schnyder

Little Orphan Annie with a tennis racket. Her crown of curls gives her a resemblance to the comic-strip character. Schnyder, from Switzerland, once had an association with a guru who plied her with vast amounts of orange juice. Having severed this relationship, Schnyder is in the process of returning her game to where it was in January 1999, when she held the No. 8 ranking.

14. Anna Smashnova

At 5-foot-2, the native of Minsk in Belarus who makes her home in Israel has to rely on her court coverage, which is exceptional. She might have improved more in 2002 than any other player. Smashnova, 26, began the year ranked No. 88, but proceeded to win titles in Auckland and Canberra before scoring her first top-10 victory in almost eight years in Miami over Henin, then ranked No. 7. In all, Smashnova has captured four tournaments this season, a total bettered by only the Williams sisters.

15. Magdalena Maleeva

All one has to know about the junior of the three tennis-playing Maleeva sisters is that she triumphed in Moscow, getting past Mauresmo, Venus Williams and Davenport. Her game must be sharp; she was a runner-up recently in Luxembourg to Clijsters.

16. Elena Dementieva

In on a pass – Mauresmo's withdrawal. This Russian woman, 21, demonstrated her mettle at Filderstadt, where she eliminated Hingis in what for Dementieva was her first top-10 victory in a year. She is a big (5-foot-11), athletic player whose crosscourt forehand is her most potent stroke.

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