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The Australian Open

This could be a breakthrough season for Venus Williams, who is armed with the serve and the sass to tear up the WTA Tour. In 1998 she clocked a women's world record 127 m.p.h. serve and backed it up with some solid play in the majors.

Things are better on the women's circuit. Although the Women's Tennis Association Tour has not found a sponsor to replace Corel, officials aren't worried because television ratings are going steadily up and women's tennis has more young star power than almost any other sport.

It's too early to start comparing them to other great one-on-one duels, but the Lindsay Davenport-Martina Hingis matches have that type of potential. Davenport, who moved ahead of Hingis in the rankings last year, became the first American woman to be ranked number one since Chris Evert in 1981. She could make it two Grand Slam titles in a row with a victory at the Australian Open.

It will be a surprise if either of those players aren't in the final. If Hingis wins her third straight Australian Open title she would regain the number-one ranking and capture her fifth Grand Slam title in just over two years. But the competition in 1999 for more titles will be tougher than ever.

That's because this could be the breakthrough season for Venus Williams, who is armed with the serve and the sass to tear up the WTA Tour. In 1998 she clocked a women's world record 127 m.p.h. serve and backed it up with some solid play in the majors. Williams advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open last September and reached the quarterfinals of the other three major tournaments.

Other stars to look out for this year include Patty Schnyder, who just turned 20 but already has six career titles; Anna Kournikova, who became the first Russian woman to be seeded at the U.S. Open since 1976; and Jana Novotna, last year's Wimbledon champ.

And don't count out resurfaced veterans Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Mary Pierce. All three finished last season ranked in the top 10.

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