Scramble for supremacy in women's tennis
By STEVEN WINE, AP SPORTS
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) - With the queen of grass newly crowned, the women's tennis tour will now switch to hard courts, where fans can look forward to truer bounces, hotter weather and an intriguing tussle at the top.
Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova will be out to show that she's not a fluke, and don't bet against her.
Serena Williams will try to recover from the latest setback in her comeback from knee surgery a year ago.
Venus Williams will attempt to shake a slump that has left her without a Grand Slam title since 2001.
Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, who both missed Wimbledon, remain Nos. 1 and 2 despite their inactivity. It's unclear when they'll return, but Clijsters is expected to miss the U.S. Open because of a left wrist injury.
With the Belgians out and the Williams family dynasty in decline, at least for now, there's no dominant player in the women's game. The post-Wimbledon scramble for supremacy will culminate with two consecutive marquee events - the Athens Olympics and the U.S. Open.
Sharapova, the game's newest star, won her first Grand Slam title and instant celebrity by beating Serena Williams 6-1, 6-4 Saturday.
For the first time since 1999, none of the four major titles is held by a Williams. Venus, upset in the second round at Wimbledon, has slipped to 15th in the rankings, and Serena is 14th, her lowest since March 2000.
Sharapova is eighth and rising. London newspapers trumpeted her breakthrough to stardom under such headlines as "Sharapova the supernova."
As the 17-year-old Siberian native showed throughout the fortnight, she's poised, personable and precocious - and has a terrific backhand besides. Jana Novotna, who was just shy of 30 when she won her first major at Wimbledon in 1998, could only marvel at Sharapova's dominating performance against Williams.
"I don't remember when I saw somebody so young come in and play like that in their first final," Novotna said.
Even Sharapova is surprised by her success at such a young age. But she's confident that her first title in a major event won't be her last.
"I'd like to win all the Grand Slams," she said. "I mean, Wimbledon is my favorite, really, and I'd love to win it many more times, of course. But I'd also like to win all the other Grand Slams."
Several other Russians are major contenders, including French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, who last month became the first woman from her country to win a Grand Slam title. There's also No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 12 Nadia Petrova and No. 13 Vera Zvonareva.
"There are like 50 players from Russia in the top 10. Every week you have to play an 'ova," Serena Williams said, laughing. "They ask, 'Who're you playing?' I say, 'I'm playing an 'ova today."
07/04/04 20:06 EDT
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press