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By Tennis Week
05/02/2003

The Stella Artois tournament will celebrate its 25th anniversary next month with a group of players who weren't even born when the event began. A trio of talented teenagers — 16-year-olds Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet and 19-year-old Mario Ancic — have joined three-time defending champion Lleyton Hewitt, Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin in the main draw of the Queen's Club tournament.

The Stella Artois tournament, which is scheduled for June 9-15th in London, is a popular warm-up for Wimbledon.

Spanish southpaw Nadal gained international attention last month when he defeated defending French Open champion Albert Costa en route to the Tennis Masters Series-Monte Carlo quarterfinals. The 93rd-ranked Nadal has appeared in four challenger finals on three different surfaces this year. The owner of a lethal lefthanded forehand, Nadal will be making his first grass-court appearance at Queen's Club.

Widely regarded as the future of French tennis, Gasquet captured the Roland Garros and U.S. Open junior championships last season to conclude the year as the world's top-ranked junior.

Ancic has already made his mark on grass courts. Ancic, who like his friend and mentor Goran Ivanisevic, hails from Split, Croatia, burst onto the Grand Slam stage last year with a shocking straight set win over seventh-seeded Swiss Roger Federer in the opening round of Wimbledon. Currently ranked 77th, Ancic reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

In addition to the teenage trio, the Stella Artois tournament announced Paradorn Srichaphan, Sjeng Schalken and James Blake have joined the main draw.

" I enjoy the grass and being in London for a whole month it's very exciting to have somewhere to call your home for a while," Blake said. "The Stella Artois is a great tournament and the Queen's Club is a beautiful facility. I think they have the best grass courts in the world. I was told that before I went there and they have lived up to those expectations. Last year I came in a little injured but I think I have a great opportunity this year."

Former tournament champions Wayne Ferreira (1992), Todd Martin (1994) and Mark Philippoussis (1997) are also entered into the event. Seven-time Wimbledon winner Pete Sampras, who claimed the Queen's Club title in 1995 and 1999, has asked for a wild card to be reserved for him though it is uncertain whether Sampras will continue to compete or decide to conclude his career. The 14-time Grand Slam champion has not played an ATP Tour match since beating Andre Agassi to win the 2002 U.S. Open championship.
 
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