Bewitching Williamses, artless Agassi

THE INCREDIBLE Williams sisters are certain to provide a rousing farewell this afternoon to the Compaq Grand Slam Cup in Munich as theAmerican computer company decide that 10 years of throwing record sums of money at tennis players is enough. But before the gravy train runs intothe buffers Venus and Serena will help themselves to just over £800,000 as the finalists in the women's event, a nice little bundle to take hometo Florida for their father, Richard, the man who launched them so artfully on to the world scene.

THE INCREDIBLE Williams sisters are certain to provide a rousing farewell this afternoon to the Compaq Grand Slam Cup in Munich as theAmerican computer company decide that 10 years of throwing record sums of money at tennis players is enough. But before the gravy train runs intothe buffers Venus and Serena will help themselves to just over £800,000 as the finalists in the women's event, a nice little bundle to take hometo Florida for their father, Richard, the man who launched them so artfully on to the world scene.

The vast indoor hall at the Olympic Stadium, Munich, home to the 1972 Games, today stages its final session of tennis. Already the date for 2000 hasbeen allocated to the world karate championships. But, the organisers insist, the Grand Slam Cup will go on, certainly in another city and, they hope,with a new title sponsor. The head honchos of the four Grand Slam championships are gathered here and an announcement is due today about thetournament's future, albeit possibly of a holding nature.

The event has been lambasted since its inception in 1990 for prize money that John McEnroe called "obscene" (though that didn't stop himcompeting in 1992) and also regularly derided as a glorified exhibition because it does not offer ranking points. What the detractors overlook is thatthe public at large neither knows nor cares whether a tournament is pukka or not, just so long as the top names turn up; and it is in this area that theGrand Slam Cup has struggled recently, with players either declining the place for which they have qualified or, in some cynical instances, collectingthe money before ducking out with an early defeat.

The biggest ticket seller for this year's tournament, Andre Agassi, looked very much as if he might fit into this latter category. Jetting into Munich ona tidal wave of speculation about his romance with Steffi Graf, surely the most bizarre pairing in recent sporting history, Agassi seemed to be tanking(tennis-speak for not trying) when he lost the first set against Tommy Haas in 17 minutes. Subsequently he tried harder, or possibly disguised hiscommitment more skilfully, and lost in three sets before departing to the Oktoberfest with his buddy Boris Becker, where they took a beer or two inthe Kafer tent, a VIP area which sniffs that "guests are hand- picked". Of Steffi there was no sign.

Agassi and Graf had arrived together from America last Monday but she promptly peeled off to Vienna and then home to Heidelberg. Having beenbombarded with reports via US television that the two French Open champions of 1999 were planning marriage and children, the German media(tabloid branch) renamed the event the Grand Love Cup but such salivation dried up after Andre's poker-faced press conference following the Haasdefeat. It was such straight-bat, back-foot stuff that a Munich newspaper offered the woeful headline "No Kissing, No Marriage, No Children".

So thank heavens, then, for the Williams girls, sashaying around with their high-octane tennis and outrageous comments. One of the most damningfailures of the Grand Slam Cup was that for eight years it declined to let women participate, against all logic. When the barricades were lowered lastyear Venus Williams loped through to make off with prize money in excess of half a million pounds. Now she and her "baby" sister, the mighty-muscled Serena, have put the opposition to the sword. The world No 1, Martina Hingis, and the Wimbledon champion, Lindsay Davenport, weredispatched in Friday's semi-finals and, for the fourth time in their short careers, Venus and Serena will play each other. Venus has won all three sofar, in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open 7-6 6-1, the quarter-finals of the 1998 Italian Open 6-4 6-2 and the final of Key Biscayne inMarch this year 6-1 4-6 6-4.

Richard Williams juggles his daughters' playing commitments so skilfully that collision possibilities are avoided, except in the biggest and richestevents like this one, but now may well be the time for Serena, the new US Open champion, to clock up the first professional win over Venus. Aftercrunching Davenport 6-3 6-4 on Friday night Serena revealed that Venus is good-naturedly envious of that victory in New York. "She says thingslike 'Good morning, US Open champ' or 'That's no way to treat the US Open champ'.

"Playing Venus in the final isn't too much of a problem because family is what comes first in life. I don't want to have a family feud just because weplay each other a few times. And I would rather play Venus because then we get the maximum amount of everything. It's also exciting. I would preferto play her in the big matches because that's what we dreamed of, being in the finals of tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open."

This week Serena will play a tournament in Filderstadt before hurrying home to start a term of schooling in fashion design and psychology. "I justtalked to the school. They told me I needed to be there by nine o'clock on the Monday morning. Unless I lose early I might not make it."

For a girl who says "sometimes I feel I'm invincible", losing early in an event like Filderstadt would not appear to be an option. School may have towait a few hours. For the Grand Slam Cup, the search for a multi- dollar sponsor may take a little longer.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice