Hewitt comes of age with Wimbledon win; Williams sisters dominate women's tennis

Sunday, July 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Lleyton Hewitt was 6 years old when he sat in front of the TV at his grandmother's house and watched Pat Cash win Wimbledon.

Hewitt remembers the scenes of Cash breaking Wimbledon protocol and climbing into the stands to embrace his father, coach and friends.

That was 1987, the last time an Australian had lifted the most famous trophy in tennis.

So when Hewitt beat David Nalbandian 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday's final, he decided to do something special.

``I had no idea of what I was going to do if I won,'' he said. ``I went back to my chair. Then I thought, `Stuff it, I'll go and do it.' It's been 15 years since an Aussie won.''

Hewitt climbed over the wall, ran up the stairs and went into the guest box where he embraced his coach, Jason Stoltenberg; kissed his girlfriend, Kim Clijsters; and hugged his parents Glynn and Cherilyn.

``I spoke to Pat before and after the match,'' Hewitt said. ``Obviously he was one of my favorite players when I was growing up, the headband and everything, the way that he showed fire out there on the court. I thought, `Stuff it, I'll copy him out there.' ''

Hewitt also drew inspiration from a pre-match phone call from Pat Rafter, who lost in the previous two finals and is on an extended break from the game. ``Go out there and do it for Australia,'' Rafter told him.

Hewitt got plenty of support, too, from a full contingent of Aussie greats, including Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe and Neale Fraser.

But Hewitt is a completely different player from his predecessors.

While they all played served and volley on grass, Hewitt stayed at the back of the court and became the first baseliner to win the men's title since Andre Agassi in 1992.

``I couldn't wait until Wimbledon started,'' he said. ``That's a strange thing to have when you're a baseliner coming on grass.''

Hewitt, who won the U.S. Open last September on hard courts, has the game to win on all surfaces. With the Wimbledon crown, he had added the most prestigious title in tennis to his resume and validated his legitimacy as No. 1 in the game.

Hewitt is the youngest Wimbledon men's champion since Boris Becker won his second title in 1986 at age 18.

Sunday's final shaped up as a mismatch: the top-seeded Hewitt against No. 28 Nalbandian, a 20-year-old Argentine playing in his first grass-court tournament and his first match on Centre Court.

Hewitt never wavered, whipping his ground strokes with power and precision, dictating the points, making very few errors. Nalbandian couldn't cope with the occasion or Hewitt's supremacy.

Hewitt's victory was the most dominating final in terms of games lost since John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in 1984

There was some light relief during a 15-rain rain break with Hewitt up 1-0 in the second set. A male streaker shed his clothes and shoes on Centre Court, did a little dance and somersaulted over the net before being escorted away with a red sheet around him.

The brash Hewitt may not beat the revered Rafter in Australia's popularity stakes, but he's definitely matured.

While playing James Blake at the U.S. Open, he made a comment interpreted by some as racist during a tirade.

He's been fined for using foul language on court and for calling a chair umpire at the 2001 French Open ``spastic.'' He angered fans in Adelaide by calling them ``stupid'' for cheering for his opponent during a match in 2000.

But Hewitt came of age at Wimbledon, doing and saying all the right things.

While Hewitt solidified his supremacy in men's tennis, the Williams sisters continued their dominance of the women's game.

On Sunday, Venus and Serena Williams won the women's doubles title, beating Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez 6-2 7-5. It was their second Wimbledon doubles title and fifth Grand Slam championship.

A day earlier, Serena beat Venus 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the women's singles final for her first Wimbledon title and second straight Grand Slam championship.

Now, for the first time, Serena is No. 1, both in the rankings and her own home.

``I just wanted Wimbledon,'' said 20-year-old Serena, who's 15 months younger than Venus and beat her sister on the French Open final last month. ``I wanted to become a member of so much prestige, so much history. I want to be a part of history.''

Serena didn't lose a set at Wimbledon, has won a season-best 19 straight matches, and is 36-3 with a tour-high five titles in 2002. Plus, she's beaten her older sister three straight times to pull within 5-4 in their pro careers.