|INTRO | REVIEW BY SPORT | GALLERY | VOTE | LEGENDS REMEMBERED | 2001 CALENDAR|
By BBC Radio tennis correspondent Iain Carter
Tennis in 2000 will be remembered for a galaxy of new stars providing ample evidence of a bright future in the men's game, while in the women's Venus was simply out of this world.
How appropriate that the final match of the year should have been played out by two of the ATP's most exciting prospects.
In a bear pit atmosphere, 20-year-old Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame Lleyton Hewitt, 19, to give Spain an unassailable 3-1 lead in the Davis Cup final against Australia.
That Barcelona triumph means the Spaniards have become only the 10th nation to have their name engraved on the 101-year-old trophy.
Ferrero's victory was borne out of his country's extraordinary strength in depth.
The Cup was won without Spanish number one Alex Corretja needing to play a live singles rubber and with former world number one Carlos Moya unable to force his way in to the team.
But while Spain deservedly took the team honours, they didn't figure on the Grand Slam scene, where the year began in familiar fashion.
Andre Agassi picked up from his all-conquering 1999 by claiming the first major at the Australian Open.
He beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final, but it was his thrilling five-set semi-final victory over Pete Sampras that produced Melbourne's most memorable match.
Lindsay's Davenport's triumph in the women's event proved her to be the world number one to all bar the rankings computer, which kept the player beaten in a largely one-sided final, Martina Hingis, at the top of the standings.
For Britain's top two men, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, events in January set the tone for their years.
Henman failed to make inroads into the second week as he fell in five sets to Chris Woodruff.
The pattern was to be repeated at the remaining three Slams, as he lost fifth sets against Fernando Vicente at the French, Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon and then Richard Krajicek at the US Open.
Rusedski didn't even make it to the Australian Open as he recovered from foot surgery, and injury dogged the most disappointing year of his career.
Only recently it emerged he suffered a stress fracture in his back, and his ranking slumped down to 70 in the world.
Henman, meanwhile, found a new level of consistency on the regular tour. It brought him two titles, in Vienna and Brighton, and he finished a creditable No.10 in the world.
This is a hugely underrated achievement, and will be sadly overlooked by many who will take more notice of his fourth round Wimbledon departure and conclude that after two semi-final appearances he's going backwards.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and Henman is justifiably viewing 2001 with great confidence.
So too is the new world number one Gustavo Kuerten, who took the year's second Slam by beating Magnus Norman in the French Open final.
Mary Pierce brought home delight by clinching the women's crown.
It was at this stage that Venus started to burn brightest in the women's constellation, as the elder of the Williams sisters swept to Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic titles.
She has raised the bar in the women's game and Hingis, Davenport and the younger Williams, Serena, have been forced into the shadows.
It was from the gathering gloom that Sampras emerged on a murky July night to overcome Pat Rafter and claim his record equalling seventh Wimbledon title and set a new mark of 13 Grand Slam crowns.
But he couldn't make it 14 at the US Open, as he was blown away by a sensational performance from the Russian Marat Safin.
The 20-year-old had endured a miserable start to the year, but from the spring onwards started to fulfil his enormous potential.
The US Open was one seven titles won by Safin, and he was only pipped in the ATPs Champions Race, when Kuerten beat Agassi to take the season-ending Masters Cup in Lisbon.
That event produced a wonderful finale, with stirring displays from Agassi and Sampras to complement the impressive showing of the younger generation.
With Kuerten, Safin, Hewitt and Ferrero all coming to the fore, with Sampras and Agassi showing they're not finished yet and with Venus heading a women's chasing pack that includes Hingis and Davenport, plus youngsters Elena Dementieva and Kim Clijsters, there's every reason to anticipate 2001 as a tennis year to relish.
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