- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Serena Williams are the first three qualifiers for the season-ending WTA Tour Championships set for Nov.5-10 in Los Angeles.

Clijsters, ranked No.1, won the WTA Tour Championship last year. She has won six titles and reached at least the semifinals at 14 of 15 events this season to overtake Williams for the top spot in the rankings. She is seeking her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.

Henin-Hardenne is ranked No.3 and won six titles, including the French Open, this season. She reached at least the quarterfinals in all 13 of her tournaments leading to the U.S. Open.

Williams, ranked No.2, won the Australian and Wimbledon championships and was a semifinalist at the French Open. She is currently recuperating from knee surgery that prevented her from defending her U.S. Open championship.

Five more players will be added to fill the field.

Logistical logjam

Rain limited the U.S. Open to three complete matches on Monday and Tuesday, causing a huge schedule backup.

On a normal Day 10, the Open would have the last two women’s quarterfinals and the first two men’s quarterfinals on the schedule. With the weather problems, the 2003 Open had two fourth-round women’s matches, two women’s quarterfinals and seven fourth-round men’s matches scheduled.

They were part of a tournament-record schedule of 108 matches, an optimistic plan because of the continuing bleak weather forecast.

While tennis officials struggled with the rain, the New York Mets played three baseball games across the street at Shea Stadium with no interruptions.

Try, try again

For the third straight day, the USTA put its inclement ticket policy in place.

Fans holding tickets for yesterday’s rained-out session can exchange them for sessions on either today or tomorrow or they can be exchanged for next year’s U.S. Open.

Nominees unveiled

U.S. Open champions Stefan Edberg and Steffi Graf, and 86-year-old Dodo Cheney are the 2003 nominees for the Tennis Hall of Fame. Tony Trabert, chairman of the nominating committee and president of the Hall of Fame, announced the nominations yesterday.

Edberg won 41 career singles titles including six Grand Slams — two Australian Opens, two Wimbledons and two U.S. Opens. He also played on four of Sweden’s seven Davis Cup championship teams and won an Olympic gold medal in 1984.

Graf won 107 WTA singles titles and 22 Grand Slam events — four Australian Opens, six French Opens, seven Wimbledons and five U.S. Opens. She was the first player to win each of the four major singles titles at least four times. In 1988, she swept all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year as well as winning the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics. She is married to Andre Agassi.

Cheney was the first American woman to win the Australian National Championships in 1938. She was a member of winning Wightman Cup teams from 1937-39. She competed in tennis events for over six decades and has won over 20 senior Grand Slam titles.

The induction class for 2004 will be announced in early January with ceremonies at Newport, R.I., July 9-11.

Dodging the drops

Waiting out the rain, five customers were invited out of the stands at the National Tennis Center and given four chances to live out a tennis fan’s fantasy — deliver a serve at center court.

Youngsters Nick Fascitelli, 10, Greg Vladimirsky, 12, and Harrison Gostfrand, 11, all of New York City, were joined by adults Susan Duggan of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Riki Mitra of Union City, N.J.

They used borrowed rackets and were rewarded with U.S. Open hats, the better to keep their heads dry in the mist.

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