As the World (tour) Turns
Since our last episode, ATP stars have been busy. Here's an update:

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What's been going on in the tennis world since last year's Great American Insurance ATP Championship? Let's turn on the TV and check it out:


        Eighth-ranked Alex Corretja is considered one of the nicest guys on the ATP Tour, and he has had a splendid year. He won the ATP Tour World Championship -- the top eight players compete -- in Hanover, Germany, last November, was named Best Spanish Sports Person of 1998 and was voted the most pleasant player on the tour by journalists at the French Open.


        Jim Courier, a No. 1 player in the world in 1992 and '93, may have dropped in the ATP Tour rankings (he's at 46 after finishing last year at 76) but he gave his career a big lift with a gutty five-set victory over Greg Rusedski to give the United States a Davis Cup victory over Britain in April. Courier also defeated Tim Henman in five sets.

        John McEnroe called it "one of the best Davis Cup moments I've seen in a long time." U.S. Federation Cup captain Billie Jean King said: "He has been on 13 Davis Cup teams, and every time Jim (has played) they have won. I would take him even when he is 80 years old as a mascot."

One month after breaking up with Brooke Shields, Andre Agassi attributed a second-round Italian Open to conditioning and "being single."
(File photo)
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        HAPPY DAYS

        Andre Agassi's rise to No. 1 just 19 months after being ranked 144th is nothing short of remarkable. Agassi, winner of the ATP Championship in 1995 and '96 the ATP Tour's Most Improved Player in 1998, comes to Cincinnati ranked No. 3.

        It's been an active year for Agassi, who was ejected from the Sybase Open in San Jose, Calif., in February for using profanities, announced in March that he was severing ties with the U.S. Davis Cup team, split with wife Brooke Shields in April, won the French Open title in June and lost in the Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras in July.



        Think Sampras took note of this quote?

        "(Andre) has the right to say now that he's a greater player than Pete by winning all four Grand Slams." That was Andrei Medvedev after losing to Agassi in the French Open final. Since that time, Sampras reclaimed his No. 1 ranking and beat Agassi in the Wimbledon final and again last Sunday in Los Angeles.

        Agassi is one of only five men to win all four Grand Slam events; Sampras has never won the French Open.

        Sampras finished No. 1 last year for a record sixth time, and last Monday set a record by being ranked No. 1 for the 271st week in his career. That tops Ivan Lendl.


        • No. 7-ranked Richard Krajicek in July married model Daphne Deckers, who was in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.

        • Sampras is no longer dating actress Kimberly Williams. Their relationship ended in April after roughly two years. Williams was in Cincinnati for last year's tournament.

        • Even though Shields and Agassi are divorced, Shields was at his matches in Los Angeles last week.

        • Jan-Michael Gambill was seen hanging out with Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in the players' lounge in Los Angeles. He's a big fan of the show.


        Tim Henman makes his hometown crowd in London so happy with his runs at Wimbledon. The world's No. 5-ranked player lost to Sampras for the second year in a row in the semifinals. No British man has won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.


        A sample of the kinds of things you don't always hear about professional athletes:

        • A fund-raiser for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation held last September raised close to $3.3 million. The foundation assists at-risk children in Las Vegas.

        • The Patrick Rafter Cherish the Children Foundation, which will help with homeless and drug-addicted children, started in February in Australia.

        • After beating Sampras at The Lipton Championships in March, Krajicek helped at a tennis clinic for underprivileged children from the Miami area. In his native Holland, Krajicek has a foundation that provides sports opportunities for underprivileged children.


        Michael Chang, 27, finished in the top 10 six straight years before last season, when he finished No. 29. He has now dropped to 64 and last month competed in a challenger, a lower-level tournament. Chang's ranking of 70 through Aug. 1 was his lowest since July 1988.

        Earlier in the year, he squelched rumors that he was considering retirement by saying, "I feel like I still have a good number of years ahead of me." The two-time ATP Championship winner lost last year to Yevgeny Kafelnikov here.


        That's how Kafelnikov appeared to feel after becoming the No. 1 ranked player in the world three months ago.

        Let's try to follow this:

        • Last October, Kafelnikov told Tennis Week magazine that he had no desire to be No. 1 in the world. "No more dreams," he said. "I already have everything I want to achieve."

        • In January, he won the Australian Open.

        • In April, he became No. 1 despite having not won a match in two months. His reaction to getting to the top: "Unfortunately," he reportedly said to John McEnroe in Paris.

        LAW & ORDER

        Last year, Petr Korda was eager to get home to see his family. No problem. They've got plenty of time together now. Korda tested positive for steroids at the 1998 Wimbledon, and the International Tennis Federation is trying to ban him from competing on the ATP Tour. Korda recently said he was going to retire.


        Gustavo Kuerten was so refreshing when he came to Cincinnati two years ago, just two months removed from his shocking victory at the French Open. "Guga," who missed last year's ATP with an injury, is No. 1 on the Tour's money list and ranked sixth this week and has a closely cropped head instead of his long, flowing hair. After Kuerten reached the round of eight at the Wimbledon, his coach Larri Passos kept a promise and shaved his head.


        No. 11 Mark Philippoussis hurt his knee during Wimbledon but is expected to play in Cincinnati. . . . Popular doubles player Luke Jensen, who teams with his brother Murphy, had knee surgery last fall and is not expected to play here. He will be in town to work for ESPN. . . . No. 13 Marcelo Rios pulled out of Los Angeles and Montreal the past two weeks with tendinitis in his hips but is expected to be here.

Patrick Rafter, above, beat Pete Sampras in last year's ATP final.
(File photo)
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        Last year, Patrick Rafter became the first non-American to win the ATP Championship title since 1991 (Guy Forget) and he went on to become the first player to win the U.S. Open after winning in Cincinnati since Mats Wilander in 1988.

        He won big Davis Cup matches last month against Courier and Todd Martin of the United States.

        Rafter comes in as the defending champion and the No. 2 ranked player in the world.


        Tennis rankings, based on a player's best 14 results from the previous 52 weeks, can be a curious thing. Kafelnikov was No. 1 going into the French Open. Agassi won the French Open and Sampras became No. 1 two weeks later. Sampras won Wimbledon and Agassi moved to No. 1. A month later, on July 26, nobody had won anything and Rafter became No. 1. There have been five players at the top of the rankings this season, the most ever in one year.

        THE VIEW

        Sampras was featured as No. 48 in ESPN's countdown of the top 50 sports stars of the 20th century.



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