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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 17:56 GMT
Tennis: Changing of the guard
By Alex Perry

2003 GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS
Andy Roddick
Men's tennis has long been waiting for its young guns to take over, and 2003 was the year that it finally happened.

But there was little to show that things would be changing in January at the Australian Open.

Andre Agassi destroyed Rainer Schuettler to claim his fourth Aussie Open crown in one of the most one-sided Grand Slam finals ever.

In the women's event, Serena Williams completed her 'Serena Slam' by adding the Australian title to the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open that she already held.

Despite a narrow escape in the semi-final, when she came back from 5-1 and match point down in the third set against Kim Clijsters, Serena's dominance seemed so complete it was impossible to imagine she would finish 2003 ranked just third in the world, with sister Venus outside the top 10.

The slide started at Roland Garros, where Serena lost in controversial circumstances to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The French crowd turned on Serena and her veneer of invincibility crumbled as Henin-Hardenne eked out a momentous victory amid accusations of underhand tactics.

It proved to be a golden year for Henin-Hardenne, who claimed the first of two Grand Slam titles that propelled her to the number one ranking with an easy win over Clijsters in the final.

In the men's tournament Juan Carlos Ferrero finally won the title that his position as the best clay-court player in the world deserved, with a demolition of surprise finalist Martin Verkerk.

2003 WOMEN'S TOP 10
1 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2 Kim Clijsters
3 Serena Williams
4 Amelie Mauresmo
5 Lindsay Davenport
6 Jennifer Capriati
7 Anastasia Myskina
8 Elena Dementieva
9 Chanda Rubin
10 Ai Sugiyama
A typically wet Wimbledon saw Roger Federer produce a masterclass to destroy first Andy Roddick in the semis and then a resurgent Mark Philippoussis in the final.

The Australian's return from a series of crippling injuries that had seen him confined to a wheelchair was remarkable, but the fairytale ending went to a tearful Federer, who, like Ferrero, enjoyed a breakthrough year.

The Williams sisters played out a bizarre women's final, in which Serena seemed unable to play against an injured Venus.

Serena eventually came through in three sets, but neither sister played again all season after succumbing to injury.

Once again, Wimbledon proved a disappointment for the fervent British crowds.

A less than fully fit Tim Henman did well to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Sebastien Grosjean, while Greg Rusedski crashed out to Roddick in a blaze of expletives.

2003 MEN'S TOP 10
1 Andy Roddick
2 Roger Federer
3 Juan Carlos Ferrero
4 Andre Agassi
5 Guillermo Coria
6 Rainer Schuettler
7 Carlos Moya
8 David Nalbandian
9 Mark Philippoussis
10 Sebastien Grosjean
Both players' seasons were ruined by injury, but Henman's finished on a high as he won his first-ever Masters Series title in Paris, beating many of the world's best along the way.

Through the summer, Roddick emerged as the man in form under the expert guidance of Agassi's former coach Brad Gilbert.

He went in to the US Open as an overwhelming favourite but with a huge burden of expectation.

Roddick held his nerve - but only just - recovering from two sets and match-point down in his semi-final against David Nalbandian - to beat Ferrero in the final.

So Ferrero, Federer and Roddick won their first Grand Slam titles and were the outstanding players of the year.

And the changing of the guard was symbolised at Flushing Meadows as Roddick's victory came just days after Pete Sampras' announcement that he was to retire from the game.

Henin-Hardenne capped her year with another Grand Slam final win over Clijsters, who seemed unable to produce her best when it mattered most.

Both Belgians elected to miss their country's Fed Cup semi-final against the USA, and though the Americans, including Martin Navratilova, breezed into the final they were ultimately upended by France.

The Davis Cup provided a thrilling end to an absorbing season - Philippoussis battling against injury to down Spain's Ferrero in five sets to clinch the Cup for Australia for the 28th time.




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