Clijsters breaks Williams stranglehold

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The Independent Online

Kim Clijsters will take her biggest step towards shattering the dominance of the Williams sisters when she moves up to a career–high second place in the world rankings next week.

With Venus Williams having decided against defending her Amelia Island title and thus losing the 284 ranking points she picked up last year, Clijsters will officially move ahead on April 14. It will be the first time in 10 months that both Williamses have not occupied the top places.

The 19–year–old Clijsters has emerged this season as the best bet to steer the major titles away from the Williams family. Her year opened with a win in Sydney which provided her fourth title in her last five tournaments.

Clijsters proved she could live with her big rivals when she led Serena Williams 5–1 in the decisive set of their Australian Open semi–final and held two match points at 5–2 before losing.

She won Indian Wells and Antwerp before losing to Serena again in the semi–final in Miami. In the process of her successes Clijsters racked up a 17–match winning streak without the loss of a set – the longest such run since Steffi Graf nine years ago.

Clijsters is closer than ever to claiming her maiden Grand Slam win. Her only previous final appearance was at the French Open in 2001 when she lost a marathon final 12–10 to Jennifer Capriati in the final set.

Magnus Larsson announced his retirement from top–level tennis during this month's Davis Cup match between Sweden and Australia.

The 33–year–old said he felt he had reached the right time to end a career which peaked at a top–10 standing in 1995.

Larsson won seven ATP Tour titles and was part of the Swedish Davis Cup winning team in 1997. Most recently he pushed world number one Lleyton Hewitt to five epic sets in this year's Australian Open. Larsson said: "It's been on my mind for a while but it wasn't until recently that I felt that this was enough.

"My best memories are the Davis Cup finals and I have no regrets. Of course I would have liked to win a Grand Slam but I am very happy with my tennis career and this is the right time to stop."

Larsson's best performance at Wimbledon was a fourth round place in 1998.

The former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic must have surgery after cutting his heel on a seashell while walking barefoot on a Miami beach in March. Doctors initially thought that the 32-year-old Croat would be able to play within a week or two. But his foot remained sore, forcing the big-serving Ivanisevic to miss Croatia's Davis Cup tie against Spain when his country were overwhelmed 5-0 last weekend.

According to the Croat daily newspaper, Jutarnji List, doctors in Zagreb now say something has become lodged in his heel. His recovery from surgery is expected to take three weeks. Ivanisevic hopes to be fit to play at the Italian Open.

The 2001 Wimbledon champion, who had shoulder surgery last May, recently announced plans to make this year's Wimbledon his last tournament.

Paradorn Srichaphan has been awarded two trophies for his performances during 2002 when he won his first two ATP Tour titles.

The Thai was voted by his peers as most improved player over last year and also picked up the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award.

Srichaphan, who also reached his first Tennis Masters Series semi–final in Paris, said: "It is always a real honour to win an award but it is even more special to win these awards because they are voted for by the players."