Wednesday, November 08, 2006

YEC: Tonight, Martina Hingis played like...Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis, having lost a grueling 3-setter last night to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the WTA Year-End Championships, had to return to the court again late tonight to play her second round-robin match, against formidable opponent Nadia Petrova. Petrova, with her combination of power and cleverness and the gift of better scheduling, was probably expected to win. She didn't. What happened instead is that, notwithstanding a glitch or two, Hingis put on a tennis clinic and produced a score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

If anyone had forgotten what made Hingis Hingis, it was all on display tonight--the amazing touch on the lines, the angles, the over-the-shoulder lob, and the glorious cat-and-mouse play that ends with the opponent's head spinning. But here's the thing: Hingis also won with her serve. She reeled off aces and immediate service winners like she was at a shooting booth at the fair. This, the Hingis whose first serve has been mediocre and second serve a total disaster throughout her comeback season.

I have written
on several occasions that unless Hingis does something about her serve, she will not win another Slam, but will have to be content with just hanging out in the top 10. But tonight's performance made me wonder whether she has had a good serve all along (her coach says she has) and becomes a victim of nerves when she is in a match and not in practice (her coach says she does, which is also what is said of Elena Dementieva and her wretched serve).

It is interesting to note that coach (and mother) Melanie Molitor was not in the stands, but Hingis's romantic partner, Radek Stepanek (who couldn't qualify for the men's masters because of his injury), was. Makes you wonder.

The tennis ranking system is complicated. Hingis's win tonight takes Amelie Mauresmo (my favorite player) out of the running for world number one, a position she now holds. There was a three-way race for the number one ranking, but now it is a two-way race between Henin-Hardenne and Maria Sharapova.

And tomorrow, Mauresmo plays Hingis. Whoever loses will likely be eliminated from the Championships, since each has already lost a match. Mauresmo is the defending champion and I hate to see her not make at least the semi-finals (she is just returning from a shoulder injury). But I also hate to see Hingis eliminated. It's never any fun when two of my favorites play each other.



You seem to have a very good grasp of the world of tennis. I really respect your objective writing style.

Would you be interested in publishing any articles regarding the sport?

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