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A tournament looking for stars Capriati featured in doubles
By Ron Kroichick, Chronicle Staff Writer
July 22 2003
Sf Gate
They kicked off the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford on Monday, suddenly devoid of star power. Serena Williams' abrupt withdrawal Sunday left tournament director Peter Tatum dizzy, probably wondering if he could summon Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for a nostalgic comeback.

No Serena, thanks to pain in her left knee.

No Venus Williams, the defending champion, who typically does not play in the same events as her sister (Grand Slams excepted).

No Lindsay Davenport, who pulled out Friday because of a foot injury.

No Anna Kournikova, out with a chronic back injury.

So as former Stanford star Laura Granville christened the tournament in Monday night's featured match -- French teenager Marion Bartoli beat Granville 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 -- Tatum found himself scrambling to launch Plan B.

This new, post-Serena strategy is evident in tonight's choice of featured match. Jennifer Capriati and Daniela Hantuchova, a wild-card doubles entry, will play Amanda Augustus/Jennifer Embry at 7:30 on the stadium court.

Tatum acknowledged it is very unusual to put a doubles match in that prime- time spot. Capriati, though, is the biggest name left on the marquee, Hantuchova is an attractive, rising Russian star (ranked ninth in the world) --

and, hey, Tatum is in the business of selling tickets, Serena or no Serena.

"This gives us a chance to showcase up-and-coming players," he said Monday. "We need to take the long view and get those players on the court."

Toward that end, Hantuchova will play singles in Wednesday night's featured match, after Capriati takes the court at noon. It's all part of Tatum's idea to promote younger players on the WTA tour, as the old guard (Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Davenport, et al.) begins to fade.

Tatum said ticket sales for this week's tournament are ahead of last year's pace, though those fans obviously expected to see Serena Williams, the world's No. 1 player. That possibility began to crumble when her agent, Carlos Fleming,

called Tatum late Saturday night to say Williams might withdraw because of knee trouble.

Sunday morning, Tatum's worst promotional fear became official. So much for all those snazzy posters proudly announcing Williams' inaugural Bank of the West appearance.

"I can't put a dollar figure on it, but it was obviously a huge deal that Serena was going to come here and make her debut," Tatum said.

"It's like the Tiger Woods phenomenon -- people will come see the Williams sisters, and bring their kids, so they can all say they saw Serena and Venus play. It sort of transcends tennis and brings in sports fans, not just tennis fans."

The crowd was thin Monday night as Bartoli and Granville battled well into the evening. Their three-set duel stretched past 10 p.m.; finally, Bartoli's strong service return helped her seize control and eliminate Granville, a two- time NCAA singles champion in her Stanford days.

Bartoli, 18, might be unknown to all but the most ardent tennis fans, but she clearly has a bright future. Barely more than a year ago, she was playing junior tournaments and ranked No. 300 in the world. Now she's at No. 56 and climbing.

Her next assignment is Capriati, the No. 3 seed in this tournament and the seventh-ranked player in the world. If nothing else, Bartoli can find solace in this: In the original tournament draw, she stared at a possible second- round match with Serena Williams.

Briefly: Amber Liu, a 19-year-old who won the NCAA singles title earlier this year as a Stanford freshman, will play her first-round match today against Tara Snyder. The winner draws the daunting chore of facing Kim Clijsters, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, in the second round. . . . ESPN2 will televise one of Saturday's semifinal matches (1:30 p.m.) and Sunday's finals (also at 1:30). The other semifinal match is scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30.


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Today's schedule

DAY SESSION
Stadium Court: 10 a.m., Jill Craybas vs. Francesca Schiavone; Noon, Maria Vento-Kabchi vs. No. 8 seed Nadia Petrova; followed by Tara Snyder vs. Amber Liu, followed by No. 1 Cara Black/Lisa Raymond vs. Kim Grant/Vento-Kabchi.

Court 7: 11 a.m., Julia Vakulenko vs. Maria Gaianeh-Mikaelian; 1 p.m., Anca Barna vs. Sarah Taylor; followed by No. 4 Eleni Daniilidou/Rita Grande vs. Jill Craybas/Mashona Washington; followed by Yoon Jeong Cho/Francesca Schiavone vs. Amy Frazier/Elizabeth Schmidt. .


EVENING SESSION
Stadium Court: 7:30 p.m., Amanda Augustus/Jennifer Embry vs. Jennifer Capriati/Daniela Hantuchova; followed by Alexandra Stevenson vs. Teryn Ashley.

E-mail Ron Kroichick at [email protected].
 

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very very very interesting.

its funny how some on here claim the sisters are bad for tennis and are hated by fans and then you have tournament directors scambling to come up with an alternative when serena drops out, and claiming that fans came expressly to see her bow debut.
 

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Capriati is still enough to sell tickets...everyone loves a comeback queen...GET WELL SOON RENA!
 
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