Davenport chasing Capriati as Sanex moves from Garden

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The Independent Online

Jennifer Capriati has been the world No 1 for just two weeks, but she already has to look over her shoulder at the onrushing Lindsay Davenport.

The battle between Capriati and the red–hot Davenport, now ranked second and closing in, is likely to dominant the year–ending Sanex Championships. It kicks off Tuesday and will draw most of the world's 16 best players.

Capriati never lasted beyond the quarterfinals when the event was called the Chase Championships and was played at Madison Square Garden.

Now that the dlrs 3 million event has said goodbye to the Garden, its home since 1978, and moved to Munich's Olympiahalle this year, Capriati may have to do better than that.

Davenport is charging, capturing her third straight title and seventh overall this year at Linz Sunday, beating Jelena Dokic in straight sets.

The title ran her winning streak to 12 matches – many of those notched against the top players she could face this coming week.

Nonetheless, the top ranking wasn't much on Davenport's mind.

"It's not that important. I really think Jennifer deserves to be ahead of me by winning the Slams this year." Davenport said, referring to Capriati's French and Australian Open triumphs.

"Hopefully, I'll be fresh and ready to go on Wednesday, but so far, I couldn't ask for anything better," she added of her winning streak, which came after a three–month layoff due to a right knee injury.

Venus Williams withdrew this week with a lingering wrist injury, denting a field already without the injured Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, who refuses to play in Germany after she was assaulted on court in Hamburg in 1993.

Bart McGuire, chief executive officer of the WTA Tour, said William's injury will be investigated and that she could lose as much as $140,000 in year–end bonus money if it didn't prove to be legitimate.

Still, officials are confident the tour has enough stars to compensate for the dropouts, which leaves 13 of the top 16 in the field and seven of the top 10.

"It is very disappointing to lose Venus but this is where the depth of our tour truly shines," said WTA chief operating officer Josh Ripple.

If Capriati and Davenport falter, it could provide a showcase for the younger tennis stars, some already enjoying a breakthrough year.

That includes Kim Clijsters, ranked fifth and a winner again Sunday in Luxembourg, or Dokic, ranked ninth. Serena Williams, 10th, is also entered.

Those new stars include Clijsters's fellow Belgium teen–ager Justine Henin, ranked sixth, who will tangle with a highly motivated Anke Huber.

The popular German will be playing the final tournament of her career and she's likely to draw boisterous support from the home fans hoping she doesn't depart in the first round.

Until now, the tournament hasn't been plagued by withdrawals from Americans, as happened at other European tournaments following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Davenport, who won the Sanex in 1999, could pick up a lot of ranking points after a first round loss last year to Elena Dementieva. She opens Wednesday against South Africa's Amanda Coetzer.

But Capriati also went out in the first round last year to Anna Kournikova and first plays Magdalena Maleeva.