SBJ/November 9 - 15, 1998/No Topic Name

Women's tennis rewriting mark for attendance

The Corel WTA is on pace to break its annual attendance record this week, as women's tennis continues to score impressive gains.

The crowds at the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia this week should push the total over the 3.559 million mark set last year. The WTA attendance total includes six events in which men also play, including the four Grand Slams.

"This has been a breakthrough year with regard to on-site attendance and worldwide popularity," said Bart McGuire, chief executive of the tour.

Television ratings for the women's finals were higher than those of the men's finals at three of this year's four Grand Slams. Record crowds came to the Australian Open, the du Maurier Open, the State Farm Evert Cup and the Toshiba Tennis Classic.

The events in North America reported a 7 percent increase in attendance from the previous year. The 13 tournaments in Europe also reported increases.

Experts attribute the success to the increase in the number of marketable players.

"In the history of women's tennis, there has never been such depth as there is right now," said Harold Hecht, a free-lance sports producer who specializes in tennis. "If you look at each of the players, they all have unique personalities, and they offer something on the tennis court which is fan friendly."

The explosion of marketable players has quickly reversed the fortunes of women's tennis. Attendance dropped to a low of 2.3 million in 1996, but with the addition of players such as Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Anna Kournikova, attendance jumped to

3.5 million last year.

When this season is over, the final attendance figure should be well north of 3.6 million.

Besides the Advanta tournament, women's tennis still has the Chase Championships in New York City remaining on the 1998 schedule. There are 54 WTA events this year, down from 55 last year.

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