Hingis rise contrasts Dokic slips
By Linda Pearce, Surfers Paradise
January 6, 2006
MARTINA Hingis and Jelena Dokic met in one of the most famous of all first-round Wimbledon matches — the great boilover of 1999. Hingis and Dokic have practised together at the Hingis home in Switzerland. Right now, both are far from the single-figure rankings of barely three years ago.
But how contrasting the early stages of their respective comebacks have been. Hingis has reached the semi-finals of her first serious event in three years — the Australian Women's Hardcourts.
Today she plays world No.23 Flavia Pennetta in what looms as the biggest test of what has been a successful return.
Dokic, meanwhile, is mired in yet another coaching controversy. She left the court in tears after a first-round loss in Auckland scarred by 28 double-faults, and has now withdrawn from next week's Canberra International with a left adductor strain, thus seriously compromising her preparation for her first Australian Open since 2001.
It has been a truly horrible start for Dokic, who has been replaced in the Canberra main draw by Sydney's Sophie Ferguson. Apparently, the readopted Australian has aggravated a groin injury, having struggled slightly with the problem during last month's Open wildcard play-off.
Canberra tournament director Gerard Corradini said Dokic "is now planning to get further treatment for the injury and is still optimistic of being fit to play in the Australian Open". If so, it will be without a coach, having split, again, with Lesley Bowrey in what was a mystifying development, even by Dokic's standards.
Hingis has had no such dramas, although her mother and coach, Melanie Molitor, is only as close as the early-morning phone call she receives within seconds of each of her daughter's matches being played many time zones away.
So far, there has only been success to report, and Tarik Benhabiles, who originally coached Andy Roddick and is now working with Tatiana Golovin, believes Hingis is already playing close to top 10-standard tennis.
"She's going to win 60 per cent of her matches, just because of her name, but playing wise she's already top 10 or 15, easy," Benhabiles said.
Indeed, Pennetta sounded beaten before she had begun, describing Hingis as a certainty to return to the top 10, and "a big champion" who draws mistakes by reputation alone. Asked whether she believed she was the player to spoil the Swiss' dream return, Pennetta replied candidly: "No."
Hingis won yesterday's quarter-final 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 against world No.50 Nuria Llagostera Vives, dropping her first set of the week but then producing her best tennis yet.
She later recalled the time, many years ago, when Dokic came to stay, but was unusually circumspect when asked how far she thought her one-time Wimbledon conqueror could advance on her own, slightly pot-holed, comeback road.
"When she was at my house, that was quite a while back, that's like seven years, I believe, so time has gone on," Hingis said. "If she really wants it? That's the question. She was No.4 in the world at her peak, and it's pretty much up to her how far she wants to take it."