Plenty of stories in this year's Championships

LLEYTON HEWITT has brought back some sanity to men's tennis with his emphatic win at this year's Wimbledon championships. Upsets have been the order of the day as the last eight Grand Slam titles prior to the Wimbledon championships have been won by eight different people and the past four titles have been held by first time winners.

In the women's section, the surname of the winner remained the same as as the younger sister Serena, not only stole her sibling's tilte but also her No.1 ranking. Even with the favourites coming through in both the draws, there were still plenty of stories in this year's Championships.

Changing of the guard.

Men's tennis has been going through a period of transition for some time. Though Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are still competing, their days as the No.1 players are over and the search was on for a new king. Lleyton Hewitt had been consolidating that position for the past nine months but his victory this year has clearly indicated that the coronation is over. He is going to be the player to beat in the years to come.

Though he played like a veteran, the fact of the matter is Hewitt is still a very young 21-year-old. There were still some doubts about his ability to impose his back court game on all opponents. He had also not gone past the fourth round in his previous Wimbledons.

But what is so significant about his victory is that he did not try to alter his style of play just to suit the surface. Instead, he had full confidence in his own ability to dominate from the baseline. While Andre Agassi and Jim Courier in recent years have shown that this can be done, Lleyton is a throwback to a previous generation of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. He brings the best of that duo - the quickness and the counter punching ability of Bjorn Borg and the fire and competitiveness of Jimmy Connors.

The champion handled the pressures of being the No.1 seed very admirably. He won six of the seven matches in straight sets and the only hiccup was in the five set quarter-final win over Sjeng Schalken. In fact, even in that game, Hewitt was up by two sets to nil and held match points in the third set before letting his opponent off the hook. (It is good to know that he is human after all!)

Sister Act III features the third meeting of the Williams sisters in the last four Grand Slam finals. Their story has to be one of the outstanding ones in all of sport. It goes back years ago when papa Richard Williams wanted to have not one but two children who will go on to become world champions. This gives a whole new meaning to the term 'Planned Parenthood!'

And the fact that the two girls learnt their tennis in South Central Los Angeles, one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the US, more known for its gun fights and gang wars. The fact that they have made it out unscathed is a story by itself. And to be perched atop the women's tennis so comfortably is stuff that legends are made of.

Serena and Venus are ranked No.1 and 2 in the world and that means that they will be in the opposite ends of the draw. Things have reached such a stage that one would be surprised if either of the Williams sisters does not make it to the final. That is the biggest testimonial to their achievement.

Footnote: The Williams not only played in the singles final but also took home the doubles title for the second time in three years.

Don't cry for me Argentina.

There has been a lot of bad news spilling out of Argentina lately. First, there has been the financial mess of their economy. Equally important, was their early round exit in the World Cup soccer. David Nalbandian has certainly given them something to cheer about.

While I was researching for the French Open preview, his name came up as one of the outsiders to watch out for. I did not take much notice of it and had forgotten about it by Wimbledon time. The fact that he lost badly to Hewitt in the final has taken some of the sheen away. Had he won, this certainly would have been the story of the Championships.

Here was a twenty-year-old playing in his first professional tournament on grass. His only prior experience at this tournament was a few years ago in the junior event where he reached the semi-final (I think). Nalbandian who overslept on the day of the match and failed to show up was defaulted.

David Nalbandian made history on many counts. He became the first player in maiden appearance on grass to reach the final at Wimbledon, the first player since 1951 to reach the singles final on his debut and the first South American ever to get past the quarter-final stage in the men's singles draw.

And for those interested in tennis trivia, David Nalbandian became the first player in the history of The Championships to be given a chance to practice on the famous Centre Court prior to his final. The Tournament Committee normally likes to give all the players a chance to play on the Centre Court prior to the final. But even in the later stages of the tournament, none expected Nalbandian to do the unthinkable. And on the semi-final day because of rain, his match against Xavier Malisse was moved to the No.1 court. So, the tournament committee decided to give him a taste of the Centre Court atmosphere prior to the final.

God save the Queen.

No British male has reached the men's singles final since 1938 and won since 1936. But for a fleeting moment in the middle of the tournament, there was a possibility of an All-British Tim Henman-Greg Rusedski final.

Greg Rusedski defeated Andy Roddick and was comfortably placed in the bottom half of the draw but he went out in his next round.

But all was not lost as Tim Henman made it to the last four stage for the fourth time in five years. The other three players were Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian and Xavier Malisse. Things had never looked so bright for the British hope since none of the other three had made it past the last 16 in this tournament. And the Queen (of England) kept herself free to attend the tennis matches on the final Sunday.

The last time the Queen attended the tennis was in 1977. It was the Centenary Year of Wimbledon and Virginia Wade had made it a memorable year by winning the Ladies crown. Twenty five years hence, it was again a special year. This was the fiftieth year since the Queen ascended the throne and Tim Henman's victory would have been a perfect celebration.

I also felt Henman was in a comfortable position of having to play the favoured Hewitt in the semi-final and have a potentially easier match in the final. Henman winning this year's title would have been a fairy tale ending but within a span of three sets, Hewitt laid to rest all hopes of Tim Henman winning a Wimbledon title. It is going to get tougher for him and with this he might have lost his last real shot at the trophy. The late Fred Perry's record of being the last British male to win Wimbledon looks safe and secure.