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Andre and Serena Win Indian Wells

Dateline: 03/18/01

Andre Agassi's groundstrokes and Indian Wells, California's desert sun were eventually too much for Pete Sampras in Sunday's final. Agassi won 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-1.

Sampras was up 5-4 with a set point for the first set when he missed a relatively easy forehand, one of his 49 unforced errors in a match in which Agassi committed only 10. Sampras's most conspicuous errors throughout came from his forehand side, in part because he was trying to outhit Agassi from the baseline. His staying back more than usual attests to the strength of Agassi's passing shots and especially his return of serve, which is the best in the game.

This was Agassi's first title at Indian Wells in 13 tries. Sampras has won it twice. Agassi is closing the gap in their head-to-head record, which Sampras leads 17-13. Adding Indian Wells, the first Masters Series event of the year, to his Australian Open win in January, Agassi is showing every indication that he will have an incredible year. Sampras hasn't won a title since last year's Wimbledon, but he is encouraged by his play at Indian Wells after a couple of months of disappointing results.

Serena Williams showed impressive mental toughness Saturday as she prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 against Kim Clijsters and several thousand relentlessly booing spectators. The boos were a consequence of her sister Venus's withdrawal from their semifinal match Thursday only two minutes before it was due to begin. As ESPN's Cliff Drysdale noted, had Venus given even half an hour's notice that she would not play, another match could have been brought in for the waiting crowd and TV cameras. Drysdale commented that Thursday's events were bad for the tournament and for tennis in general.

The crowd was not in a forgiving mood two days later. Many booed Serena as soon as she walked out on the court and continued all the way through her victory celebration. Adding to the controversy was renewed speculation that Richard Williams, Venus and Serena's father, might have engineered what transpired. Elena Dementieva, who lost to Venus in the quarterfinals, said afterward that she thought Richard Williams would decide which sister would win the semifinal. This led to sharp denials by Richard, Venus, and Serena, as well as Bart McGuire, CEO of the WTA Tour. The trainer who treated Venus's right-knee tendinitis also defended the legitimacy of her injury.

Clijsters, one of the most promising young players on the tour, defeated the top seed, Martina Hingis, in the semifinals. Serena has more firepower than Hingis though, especially on the serve, and at all of of 19, more experience than the 17-year-old Clijsters. Both young women were a little taken aback by the crowd's behavior. As reported by ESPN, Serena said, "How many people do you know go out there and jeer a 19-year-old? I'm just a kid," and Clijsters commented, "The crowd was very loud, even when she missed a first serve they were clapping. It's not her fault. She's still a tennis player. She's a very nice person and everything."

No doubt, the next Williams vs. Williams match will be watched with great interest.

Our forum members are, thus far, squarely behind Venus and Serena and not too happy with Dementieva. Join our discussion.

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