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WTA scores points with laid-back affair


By TOM TEBBUTT
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - Page S5

Getting the message out -- it's an important part of any business, including women's professional tennis.

This summer the WTA Tour has instituted round-table sessions for media with the top eight seeds on the Monday of tournament week.

Yesterday at the Rogers AT & T Cup in Toronto, a large group of reporters initially gathered around No. 2 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne but soon filtered around to No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 4 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 6 Magdalena Maleeva and No. 8 Jelena Dokic.

Kim Clijsters, the top seed who attained the world No. 1 ranking after winning the JP Morgan Chase Open on Sunday, was en route from Los Angeles and could not attend.

Taking a break from tennis talk, Maleeva, a Bulgarian, and Hantuchova, a Slovak, were asked about Canada. Maleeva identified Ottawa as the capital city as did Hantuchova -- with a little prompting -- and both selected singer Celine Dion as the most famous Canadian.

Dion's name came up again later, this time from Henin-Hardenne. "I went to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion," the French Open champion said about the break she took between winning in San Diego two weeks ago and coming to Toronto. "It was magnificent. I've been a big fan of hers for a long time and I got a chance to meet her before the show."

Unlike her Belgian compatriot Clijsters, who is playing her fifth consecutive week (including Fed Cup), Henin-Hardenne has measured her 2003 activity.

"I decided this year to have a different schedule," she said. "Right now, I'm at just 12 tournaments [Clijsters has played 16] since the start of the year and my ranking has improved [to No. 3]. I've had a super season. I don't believe in forcing myself to play unless I feel at my best physically.

"For example, I haven't played three tournaments in a row."

Asked about Clijsters, 20, being at five events in a row, Henin-Hardenne, 21, said scheduling is a function of a player's career goals.

"I want to play as long as I can because tennis is a huge part of my life," Henin-Hardenne said. "I don't see myself hanging up my racquets at 24 or 25.

"Kim plays singles and doubles and sometimes I wonder how she does it. When I see the little tired stretch she went through at the end of the match in San Diego [the final won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Henin-Hardenne], I wonder if it isn't partly from playing non-stop."

About Clijsters reaching No. 1, Henin-Hardenne said, "It really doesn't affect me one way or the other, but maybe unconsciously it motivates me. I know I can do it too.

"I've sort of had complexes regarding Kim for several years. Lately, things have started to rearrange themselves quite nicely [stopping a three-match win streak for Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne has won three of the last four including this year's final at Roland Garros]. I have more and more confidence in myself."

Asked if any congratulatory message after her victory in Paris stood out, Henin-Hardenne replied, "Arantxa Sanchez [the retired three-time French Open winner] wrote me a hand-written letter. It really touched me because she was a player that I always got along with. Beyond her tennis, she was friendly and approachable and that made her a great champion too."

The session with the players had to be considered a success. It was little bit like talking to actors before they go on stage.

When a skeptic wondered how well the format would work if Serena and Venus Williams had been present, or whether or not they would have actually participated, Dave Larson, WTA Tour vice-president of marketing and communications, had few doubts. "When we put the format to the players," he said, "Serena and Venus were the first two to put their hands up. We had pointed out that if they didn't do the round-table, they would probably have to have to do 15 individual interviews. This way, they can knock them off all at one time."

Yesterday, even without the Williams sisters, the Tour got its message out with an easy ice-breaker that should only help build interest in the event
 

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Too bad there are mistakes there. To this point, Kim has only played 2 more events than Justine, if I'm not mistaken. The article implied/said 16 events to 12, but it will be 15 events to 13 events after this tournament.
 

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Sanneriet said:
Asked if any congratulatory message after her victory in Paris stood out, Henin-Hardenne replied, "Arantxa Sanchez [the retired three-time French Open winner] wrote me a hand-written letter. It really touched me because she was a player that I always got along with. Beyond her tennis, she was friendly and approachable and that made her a great champion too."
Arantxa is so sweet :hearts: :angel:
 

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Asked about Clijsters, 20, being at five events in a row, Henin-Hardenne, 21, said scheduling is a function of a player's career goals.


Hmmm is she trying to imply that Kim was chasing points to get to number one?
 
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