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Martina Hingis - Power Overcomes Finesse

Famous Sports StarsTennisMartina Hingis Biography - Born To Play, Turns Professional, Chronology, Dominates Women's Tennis, Power Overcomes Finesse - CONTACT INFORMATION

Power Overcomes Finesse

During 1999, the supremely confident Hingis began to show cracks in her armor. Prone to speak bluntly and with small regard for tact, Hingis found herself in hot water at the 1999 Australian Open when she reportedly made derisive comments about her openly gay opponent in the finals, Amelie Mauresmo. Hingis was roundly criticized for her remark, which she refused to acknowledge or apologize for. Hingis defeated Mauresmo in the finals to win the Australian Open for the third consecutive year. She followed at the French Open by throwing a tantrum in the finals, which she lost to Graf, that she later called the only moment she regrets in her career.

Hingis reached the Australian Open finals once again in 2000 and 2001, but failed to retake the title either year. Although she went on to win nine tournaments in 2000 and ended the year once again ranked No. 1, something about her self-perceived invincibility had vanished. At Wimbledon in 2001 she won just two games in her first-round loss to unseeded Jelena Dokic. The media began to question whether Hingis's finesse game could stand up to the sheer power of players like Lindsay Davenport, Venus and Serena Williams. Questions also began to raised regarding Hingis's drive to win.

In 2002 Hingis played in the finals of the Australian Open for the sixth consecutive year, but lost to Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, despite having four match points during the second set. In May 2002 Hingis began to experience nagging injuries. She had surgery on her left ankle and withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon. She returned for the U.S. Open but lost in the fourth round to Seles. Hingis made several attempts to return to the game, but ended up withdrawing from the Chase Championships and the 2003 Australian Open.

Awards and Accomplishments

1991 Wins European Championships
1993 Wins Junior French Open
1994 Wins Junior U.S. Open; wins Wimbledon Juniors
1996 Wins Wimbledon doubles (with Helena Sukova)
1997 Wins Lipton Championship; wins Wimbledon; wins U.S. Open; wins Australian Open singles and doubles (with Natasha Zvereva); named Tennis Magazine Player of the Year
1998 Wins Australian Open singles and doubles (with Mirjana Lucic); wins French Open doubles (with Jana Novotna); wins U.S. Open doubles (with Novotna); Wimbledon doubles (with Novotna); wins Chase Championships
1999 Wins Australian Open singles and doubles (with Kournikova)
2000 Wins French Open doubles (with Pierce)
2002 Wins Australian Open doubles (with Kournikova)

The Seven Year Itch

Ahead 6-4, 2-0 in the [1999] French Open final against [Steffi] Graf… Hingis protested a poor line call, failed to get an overrule and simply couldn't let the matter go. Hingis threw an epic tantrum…. [she] walkedaround the net to Graf's side and pointed out the spot where her disputed shot had fallen. The French fans pounced; boos and hisses filled the air. Hingis plopped into her chair and refused to play. She was docked a point. She resumed play, held on to her lead and then, serving for the match at 5-4, blew the game. Now Graf pounced. Cheered on by the crowd, she won the second set and took a commanding lead in the third, and still Hingis couldn't stop sulking. Facing two match points, she insulted Graf and the game by serving underhand. The crowd howled, and Graf closed out the match. Hingis stormed off the court and refused to return for the awards ceremony until Molitor dragged her back, her face contorted and teary. When a WTA official tried to guide her toward the podium, Hingis smacked her on the arm.

Source: S. L. Price, Sports Illustrated, (June 3, 2002): 70.

Whether Hingis has the determination and physical ability to return to the game is open for debate. Clearly, however, she came into her career at a perfect time, when women's tennis, rattled by scandalous behavior, was looking for someone gregarious, lively, and confident. Hingis, simply by being a teenager who glowed in the attention from the media and dazzled her opponents on the court, provided a much-needed breath of fresh air to game of tennis.

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