Facts Not Fiction Leave Men Chasing Shadows; Tennis Correspondent Michael Ward Adds His Weight to a Debate That the Fairer Sex Are Winning Hands Down

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Only Richard Krajicek knows what compelled him to call female tennis players lazy fat pigs five years ago, but Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Monica Seles reminded the former Wimbledon champion of the crass stupidity of that remark in their French Openfina l in Paris last weekend.

It was an epic of power, skill, endurance and courage which went the distance before Seles bowed to the Spaniard; a match that added more discredit to Pat Cash's equally foolish observation before the Krajicek crack that women's professional tennis was " two sets of mainly rubbish".

The truth is that recent Wimbledon men's finals, for example, have produced far more one-sided contests than the women's. By and large, Pete Sampras has quelled token resistance for his four singles titles and the last two of John McEnroe's three were ta ken with embarrassing ease, while Carlos Moya's French Open victory last Sunday was secured in straight sets.

Much of men's tennis at the top level is numbingly dull. Given the choice between watching Greg Rusedski whacking ace after ace or Anna Kournikova caressing forehands down the line, I'd be a soft touch for the Russian teenager every time.

Fine, Greg's your man if you fancy seeing serves thundered down at the speed of light; or not seeing them, as the case may be. I'd prefer a spot of Kournikova's gentle rain any day.

If you asked me to choose between Chanda Rubin or the glowering Chilean Marcello Rios, my nod would be for the 22-year-old judge's daughter from Louisiana, one of the most audacious home-grown talents to emerge from America for many years.

And given the choice between Patrick Rafter's brawn and the braids of Venus or her sister Serena Williams, I'd travel to Mars to watch the music-loving teenagers.

My argument is that women's tennis is far more appealing to the discerning eye than the aesthetically challenged men's version of the game. The girls can strike the ball ferociously hard, make no mistake, but they don't hit it out of sight and mind.Ruse dski, Rafter, Rios and Sampras swot tennis balls as if they never want to see another one again.

It has long been fashionable among bone-headed male chauvinists to decry women's tennis as drab, dreary, predictable, short of depth and dominated by the same handful of names who reduce the rest of the field to cannon-fodder. Well, that theory has been blown apart by the proliferation of fresh talent on the Corel WTA Tour.

A whole galaxy of stars has emerged to brighten the international firmament of women's tennis. And if you want service with a smile, Martina Hingis could illuminate the Centre Court on the darkest of stormy days at Wimbledon. Apart from our own endearing ly grinning Greg, when did you last see a top twenty male player throw his head back and light up the sky with a smile as Hingis does constantly even to the extent of laughing at her own mistakes?

Predictable, the women's game is not. Any of the top ten players could beat any other on any given day and such is the competition that Hingis will be glancing over her shoulder and looking to her laurels when she arrives at London SW19 this summer to de fend her Wimbledon title.

As for the Corel WTA Tour's star quality, nobody radiates it more joyfully or stylishly than Miss Kournikova, a girl with looks to kill for and groundstrokes to match. …