There was a time when women's tennis tended to be dull. Chris Evert remembers it well because she played then.
"The women lacked power, and it was tedious to watch all those baseline rallies," Evert said.Today, the only thing boring about tennis is the men.
The women have become a promoter's dream, thanks to those feisty, photogenic teen queens - Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Couple their success with comebacks by Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and the result has been plenty of drama at Wimbledon.
"Without question, women's tennis is in the best shape in its history," Hall of Famer Billie Jean King, a six-time Wimbledon champion, said.
The men, meanwhile, have a shortage of stars. Recent Grand Slam finalists Carlos Moya, Alex Corretja, Greg Rusedski, Cedric Pioline and Gustavo Kuerten may be well known in their countries, but they haven't sustained sufficient success to become international celebrities.
Even 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, who once alleged that "80 percent of the top 100 women are lazy, fat pigs," acknowledges the changing times.
"The women are doing very well," Krajicek said. "They may even be doing better than the men. They get a lot of attention and have a lot of different personalities."
As a result, the WTA Tour - long regarded as the ATP's kid sister - is challenging the men in popularity. The women find themselves on magazine covers while the men have become footnotes.
"The men's game needs to take a hard look at what it has been doing," said three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, now an analyst for NBC-TV.
"Among the top players, except for Pete Sampras, I don't think you can put them at the level of Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl or Mats Wilander. Those players were taught tennis more completely. They had more diverse strategies and game plans, and the ability to change gears."
These days find the men in reverse. One solution for them is to ride the WTA's coattails, and the ATP has begun courting the women, proposing more combined tournaments.
Bart McGuire, chief executive officer of the WTA, favors adding one to three joint events. But he also wants equal prize money, and purses are larger for the men than the women at every Grand Slam except the U.S. Open.
McGuire plans to ask Grand Slam chairmen to eliminate the disparity when he meets with them next week.
"I believe a very strong case can be made," he said, noting that recent TV ratings have frequently been higher for the women than the men. HBO's coverage this week focused on the women, and ratings were up 20 percent over a year ago.
Evert, a three-time Wimbledon champion now with NBC-TV, favors equal prize money for players advancing to the quarterfinals or beyond. But in the early rounds, she said, the women still aren't as competitive as the men.
"There's more depth in men's tennis," she said. "In the early rounds we're seeing a lot of 6-1, 6-2 scores for the women, and tough five-set matches for the men. The WTA won't like me saying this, but we're not there yet."
The women's top 10, however, has superior star power. McGuire cites several reasons for the boom in the women's game, including cultural changes throughout the world that make it more acceptable for females to play sports.
Another factor, he said, is modern rackets that allow women to hit harder. Ironically, the rackets hurt the appeal of the men's game because big servers now dominate, especially on grass.
The women also have become more entertaining off the court, thanks to those cocky, charismatic, candid teenagers. They've introduced a new attitude, and with the Williamses' hair beads, Hingis' perpetual smile and Kournikova's bare midriff, they've given the game a new look.