Tennis: Davenport must fight to stay at No 1

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The Independent Online
BESIDES THE women's season-ending title and a pot of money, there will be a little extra on the plate at this week's Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden, New York: the No 1 ranking.

The American Lindsay Davenport, the US Open champion who is ranked No 1, is among the top 16 women contesting the finale to a season in which the four Grand Slams have each been won by different players. As will the Swiss Martina Hingis, the Australian Open champion, who lost the top ranking on October 12.

"Getting to No 1 was such a huge step in my career after winning the US Open," Davenport said. "To try and finish the year No 1 would be amazing."

The championships, which began yesterday, conclude on Sunday with a best of five sets final, the only time in the year that the women play more than three sets.

Standing in Davenport's way could be Steffi Graf, who has been unbeatable since undergoing wrist surgery after the US Open. Graf has won her last two tournaments, including Sunday's defeat of Davenport 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Advanta Championships final.

Also in contention for the Chase title are the French Open champion, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain, and the runner-up, Monica Seles of the United States; the Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna, of the Czech Republic, and the runner-up, Nathalie Tauziat of France; and the Australian Open runner-up, Conchita Martinez of Spain.

"It's great for women's tennis; it's great for the players," Novotna, the defending champion, said of the strong competition. "There was a period when a player dominated - Steffi, Monica, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert - when they won everything. Now it's wide open. Anybody can win any tournament. Anyone can win a Grand Slam."