Tennis: McEnroe backs women's game

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MEN'S TENNIS is in danger of being overtaken by the women's game in terms of popularity, according to the three-times Wimbledon champion, John McEnroe.

The American former world No 1 believes that fans are becoming increasingly attracted to the female side of the sport because there are more personalities and rivalries than there are in the men's game.

McEnroe, who is playing seniors' tennis in Australia, said: "You have the Williams sisters, who are cocky, Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf trying to come back and, of course, Anna Kournikova.

"They are at least going out there and laying it on the line and saying, 'I'm the best'.

"There are more stories there and the guys are going to have to get it together. I'd look at it as a challenge."

On Sunday, McEnroe stayed on top of the seniors standings by beating Johan Kriek 7-5, 6-3 in the final of the Melbourne tournament. McEnroe had won in Sydney a week earlier.

At the Luxembourg Open yesterday, Sylvia Farina, of Italy, upset the eighth-seeded Henrieta Nagyova, of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.

The third-seeded Irina Spirlea, of Romania, lived up to her billing , sweeping past the wild card, Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6- 1 in less than an hour.

The Croatian Iva Majoli, seeded seventh, defeated Ruxandra Dragomir, of Romania, 6-2, 6-4.

Spirlea, Majoli and Nagyova were the only three seeds in action. The defending champion, Amanda Coetzer, the No 1 seed, Nathalie Tauziat, and the No 2 seed, Mary Pierce, had byes in the first round.

n Sydney Olympic planners are to model their main pounds 10m Homebush Bay show court on Wimbledon's new No 1 court and will use the same designer, Richard Rees. However, the surface will be synthetic rather than grass.