Wimbledon shaping up great, top to bottom

New faces in women's draw, old ones in men's warm up for 2nd week

June 28, 1999

WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Hingis -- gone.

Monica Seles -- outta here.

And the rain? What rain?

And that was just Wimbledon's first week.

As the world's greatest serve-and-volley show on grass reopens today for the second week, there are hints that this could emerge as a Wimbledon for the ages.

The top half of the women's draw is in tatters, opening the way to a host of new stars, led by Jelena Dokic, the teen who toppled Hingis in the first round.

The bottom half of the men's draw is like a glorious old-timers' day, featuring the likes of Boris Becker and Andre Agassi.

Just for good measure, the two players who may be the best of this or any other generation, Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras, appear to be at the top of their games.

And the grass courts are also part of the story. With little rain, they're playing like hard courts, creating higher bounces. The men are actually engaging in rallies, instead of the usual one-serve-and-a-cloud-of-dust monotony.

So, as the second week begins, here are questions to ponder as the champions emerge.

Best matchup in the round of 16? Venus Williams vs. Anna Kournikova. With her sizzling serves and tremendous reach, Williams has the goods to dominate Wimbledon. But she must keep reminding herself to charge the net. Kournikova may be the most photographed player in the British tabloids, but it is her quickness and ground strokes that should cause the real stir.

Will a British man finally win this tournament? It could happen for the first time since 1936. Tim Henman has shown spectacular flashes in three matches but must overcome a big hurdle today in Jim Courier, who beat him at the Davis Cup. But Courier has already survived two five-set epics and a trip to the hospital for dehydration.

Greg Rusedski -- who throws around words such as telly and lads even though he was born in Canada -- has one of the big serves in the field. But he faces a tough draw, beginning with Mark Philippoussis today and potentially Sampras in the quarterfinals.

So what's with the top of the women's draw? Hingis' loss was Wimbledon's gain, as the spotlight falls on some new personalities.

There's Dokic, who has been splitting a modest hotel room with her family while unexpectedly running through three rounds. Her father, Damir, adds a dash of controversy, with a fiery temper and overwhelming presence in the stands.

The other kid on the rise is Alexandra Stevenson, whose bubbly personality and slashing forehands have been among the tournament's revelations.

But when all is said and done at the top of the draw, one woman who could emerge in the final is No. 3 Lindsay Davenport. Without any baggage, she has been virtually ignored in three impressive wins, just the way she likes it. For Davenport, though, the toughest match could be a potential quarterfinal with reigning champion Jana Novotna.

Can Boris Becker win? It would be a great tale: the one-time Wimbledon wunderkind comes out of semi-retirement to reclaim his crown. If he gets by No. 2 Patrick Rafter today, Becker will still face a difficult draw, with potential matches against Goran Ivanisevic in the quarterfinals and Agassi in the semis. The crowd will certainly pull for him, and the sport could use the lift.

What about Graf? She's definitely rejuvenated after her French Open win, losing only one set in her first three matches. But obstacles remain, with a potential quarterfinal against the Williams-Kournikova winner. Also looming as a possible semifinal candidate is the sport's new comeback kid, Mirjana Lucic, a 17-year-old who overcame injuries and a break with her father before ousting Seles.

Any dark horses? Try last year's losing finalists. Underrated Nathalie Tauziat hasn't lost a set and remains one of the few women who actually know how to play with an effective serve-and-volley style.

Ivanisevic came within a few points of beating Sampras in last year's five-set men's final. After that loss, everyone figured his days of challenging for a Wimbledon title were finished. Everyone that is except Ivanisevic, whose big serve keeps him in contention.

And what about Sampras? Aiming for his sixth title in seven years, Sampras has ruthlessly rolled through three matches. He may be vulnerable on other surfaces, and his days of dominating the ATP Tour could soon be over. But until someone can prove otherwise, Sampras owns Wimbledon.

Featured matches

Today's men's singles

* Jim Courier vs. Tim Henman (6)

* Boris Becker vs. Patrick Rafter (2)

* Wayne Arthurs vs. Andre Agassi (4)

* Pete Sampras (1) vs. Daniel Nestor

Today's women's singles

* Venus Williams (6) vs. Anna Kournikova (17)

* Kim Clijsters vs. Steffi Graf (2)

* Jelena Dokic vs. Mary Pierce (9)

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