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  Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:43 GMT
Tennis: Serena's treble
Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt finished the year as world number one

In the first half of 2002, it looked like the world of men's tennis had been turned upside down.

It began with affable Swede Thomas Johansson winning the Australian Open and continued when Albert Costa swept away Juan Carlos Ferrero at the French Open.

Such unlikely victories did little to quell the growing feeling that men's tennis was suffering from a crippling lack of personalities and enticing rivalries.

Not so on the women's side.

Jennifer Capriati defended her Australian Open title, saving four championship points against Martina Hingis in a titanic three-set tussle played in stifling heat.

And in Paris, Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam since 1999 with a straight sets victory over Venus.

At Wimbledon, regulars were treated to the sight of a string of familiar names tumbling out in the early rounds, usurped by the likes of Xavier Malisse and David Nalbandian.

But top seed Lleyton Hewitt set about restoring order as he marched to the final.

His win over surprise finalist Nalbandian was as comprehensive as it was expected.

But his performance against Tim Henman in the semi-final was more than enough proof that his title was richly deserved.

Henman reserved his best performance for that semi-final, but was beaten time and again by the movement and accuracy of the Australian.

The British number one never reached such heights again - a shoulder injury hampering his progress at the US Open and contributing to his failure to reach the Masters Cup.

But compatriot Greg Rusedski had an even more disappointing time, peaking briefly in August before himself succumbing to injury.

No such worries for Serena who cemented her dominance of the WTA Tour by winning Wimbledon in another family final before repeating the trick at the US Open.

No player has yet emerged to challenge the Williams' supremacy, but it was with some relief that in the women's end-of-year championship, Kim Clijsters handed Serena only her fifth defeat of the season.

But there was no such inevitability for the men at the US Open.

Sampras began the tournament a seemingly broken man, having endured his most humiliating defeat yet to George Bastl in a five-set horror at Wimbledon.

But as the tournament progressed, Sampras gradually rediscovered a semblance of the form which had seen him dominate the 1990s.

In the much-hyped final against Andre Agassi, he simply crushed his long-time rival to confirm his status as the greatest ever.

But the last word should be reserved for Hewitt, the 21-year-old who spent much of the year fighting a viral infection and yet still ended it as the world's best.

His against-the-odds victory at the Masters Cup merely underlined his fighting qualities and once again lifted the bar for his would-be challengers.

And the season ended in fitting style as Russia triumphed in the Davis Cup final.

In front of a raucous Paris crowd, the Russians overcame the odds to become the first team since 1964 to overturn a 2-1 deficit on the last day to lift the cup.

Mikhail Youzhny was the unlikely hero as he came from two sets down to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu in the deciding rubber.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Pete Sampras
"I played as well as I could"
New Wimbledon champion Serena Williams
"It's been a busy day"
BBC Five Live's Iain Carter
"Hewitt showed extraordinary resilience"
In-depth look back at a wonderful year of sport

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See also:

26 Jan 02 | Australian Open
08 Jul 02 | Wimbledon
06 Jul 02 | Wimbledon
09 Sep 02 | US Open
08 Sep 02 | US Open
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