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The tennis celebrity being featured most prominently in new ads running during the U.S. Open is retired bad boy John McEnroe, which underscores the dim star power of today's tennis players.

In fact, the athlete spokesman in U.S. Open ads who may garner the most attention over the next few weeks-Tiger Woods-hails from a sport many say is stealing tennis' thunder.

American Express Co. is expected to break its first ads featuring the golf phenom during CBS' U.S. Open broadcasts, via Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

Heineken USA and IBM Corp. are both making Mr. McEnroe the poster boy for their '97 U.S. Open marketing efforts. Most of the TV support behind the efforts will air during CBS' and USA Network's coverage of the two-week tournament, which begins Aug. 25.

As USTA Corporate Champion sponsors, Heineken and IBM get ad time in their packages.

Heineken will sport Mr. McEnroe in national TV, radio and point-of-purchase advertising, created by Wells BDDP, New York. The ads support a promotion that offers a limited-edition McEnroe T-shirt. The importer will heavy up its presence in New York City, the permanent home of the U.S. Open.

IBM Director of Sports Marketing Tom Burke said O&M is creating two new commercials starring Mr. McEnroe, including a sequel to one that aired around Wimbledon earlier this summer. The spots direct consumers to the Web site IBM is establishing for the event; it is being launched this week.

Tennis' dominant players, Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis, appear to be taking a back seat to Big Mac. Nike plans to air creative from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., featuring Mr. Sampras that broke last month.

"There's just no Michael Jordan of tennis," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service, which pairs athletes with brands. "Pete . . . would help himself if he was more outgoing. Martina is still young, but I'm not

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