Serving up some sizzle

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

As a tennis prodigy once herself, Tracy Austin fully understands the sizzle over rising star Maria Sharapova.

So when the women's Rogers Cup opens in Toronto next week, the television analyst for CBC and TSN doesn't mind talking about what the red-hot Russian is creating.

There's no reason for Austin to mention just about what Sharapova looks like. She just happens to be a great player, which couldn't have come at a better time for the sport.

Ratings aren't necessarily great for tennis in this country, or around the world, so Austin doesn't mind viewers tuning in because of one player's hype.

"I don't think the WTA is promoting that way," said Austin from her home in California.

"Maria is probably going to become No. 1 in the world this weekend and she's 18. The fact she is beautiful has helped get her so many commercials but she has the results to back it up.

"Being close to tops in the world and being virtually model-like is a terrific combination.

"People want to see her play, she's exciting. But I don't think the WTA has gone out of their way to promote just the cute ones.

"It helps to have someone that attractive at the top of their sport."

When Austin was at the top of her game in the 1970s, the men's game was at its peak with names like McEnroe, Connors, Borg and Lendl grabbing all the headlines.

But the same thing could now be said of the women.

The men's game has become less fun to watch because of the powerful service game, meaning entertaining rallies are few and far between with some of the better hitters.

Austin said the women today have gained power as well but the amount of talent is incredible. Most of the best will be in Toronto and all the best matchups will be televised in Canada.

As a full-time mother of three, Austin only works a handful of tournaments every year: Wimbledon and the U.S. Open being the main ones. She will do her second Rogers Cup next week because it does attract the top players.

"We certainly have a lot of great stars on the women's side," said Austin, mentioning the likes of the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport.

"What we need on the women's side is a little more consistency from injuries.

"We certainly have the names and dynamic characters and personalities. Women's tennis will really take off when everyone at the top is consistently playing and healthy."

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHT

Tiger Woods is chasing his third major this season and TSN will be on the scene chasing down the story. The network will pick up the weekend coverage as well, plus will air a mid-round show co-hosted by Vic Rauter and James Duthie. Golf expert Bob Weeks will also make the trip to Springfield, N.J., to provide insight and analysis as Tiger makes his charge:

* Today, 11 a.m., Tomorrow, 9 a.m., Sunday, 9 a.m., TSN

CLASSIC REPLAYS

Andre Agassi has always been a great draw in Canada and it's not hard to figure out why. A decade ago, Agassi won two tour titles in Toronto, beating Ivan Lendl in 1992 and Jason Stoltenberg in '94. ESPN Classic Canada is replaying the latter match, in which Agassi beat the slick Aussie. If Agassi doesn't regain his old form this week in Montreal, fans can still get their fix:

* Sunday, 5 p.m., 11 p.m., ESPN Classic Canada

YOU JUST HAD TO SEE IT

While the men duke it out in the final major of the PGA season, the most intriguing women's player hit the talk show circuit this week. Teenage Michelle Wie stopped by the Late Show with David Letterman looking elegant and much more mature than her age would suggest. The phenom also displayed some quick wit with the mercurial host. "You can't even drive to the course," Letterman commented about Wie's age. To which Wie replied, "I have my permit." Letterman talked with Wie about her career goals -- to which she said The Masters are high on her list -- and said she must be popular in school. "My friends don't really care about golf," Wie replied.

"Losers," Letterman said.


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