See 2nd to last paragraph!!
R E L A T E D C O N T E N T
SHE'S BACK: Martina Hingis smiles during her second round match against Klara Koukalova at the Australian Women's Hardcourts Championships on Wednesday. Hingis won her second successive match since returning to competitive tennis after a three-year absence, beating seventh-seeded Koukalova 6-3, 6-2.Posted on Thu, Jan. 05, 2006
SPOTLIGHT ON TENNISHingis now is feared oneBY MICHELLE KAUFMANmkaufman@MiamiHerald.comR
esurgent Martina Hingis can cross Serena Williams off her list of players to worry about, at least for the time being.
When Hingis, the former world No. 1, left competitive tennis four years ago, Williams was the most feared player in the sport. She was ranked No. 1 and won eight of the 11 tournaments she entered, including three Grand Slams -- the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. Hingis fluctuated between No. 3 and No. 5 that season and lost to Williams at Scottsdale, Ariz., and Key Biscayne before she went on hiatus with ankle and foot injuries.
Hingis, now 25, is making a comeback and has said she will have to figure out how to adjust her game to deal with the power of today's top players. It remains to be seen whether Williams still belongs on that list.
The Williams who Hingis will find in Australia this month is not the same player she was in 2002.
On Tuesday, Williams lost 6-3, 6-1 to Elena Dementieva in a Hong Kong exhibition, her first match since losing to 129th-ranked Sun Tiantian in the second round of the China Open last September. Williams, now ranked No. 11, played only 28 matches last season and was hampered by ankle and knee injuries. She won the 2005 Australian Open but went downhill from there.
Hingis, meanwhile, is shaking her rust in record speed. She beat 35th-ranked Klara Koukalova 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Hard Court Championships, a tuneup for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne.
''One thing I realize is that some of the girls do have respect for me, and when I see them I have to take advantage of it,'' she told reporters after the win. ``Maybe my reputation is helping, and the other reason is that they don't know me. They haven't seen me around for three years and they don't know what to expect. What pleased me most about the win was the winning spirit which got me through, that I really wanted it more than she did. I just had more to give.''
Once upon a time, Hingis was practically invincible at the Australian Open. She won the singles and doubles titles there in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and made the finals in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Williams won the singles title in 2003 and 2005. They both plan to be in Melbourne this month. Should make for an interesting start to the 2006 season.
Other story lines heading into the Aussie Open . . .
• Is Roger Federer mortal? Sort of. Though the Swiss master has been No. 1 in the world for 100 consecutive weeks, he was beaten by Marat Safin at the Australian Open last year and also by David Nalbandian at the Masters Cup season finale in November. Still, he finished the year with an 81-4 record and he won Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles for the second year in a row.
• Will Andy Roddick win another Grand Slam title? By most people's standards, Roddick had a great 2005. He won five titles, made the Wimbledon final, went 59-14, and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the world. But Roddick is not most people. He was long ago anointed the successor to Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, which means Grand Slam titles are expected and first-round losses to guys from Luxembourg at the U.S. Open are unacceptable. Roddick won his one and only Slam title at the U.S. Open in 2003, and another one sure would ease the pressure.
• How good can Rafael Nadal get? Expect a big year from the Spanish swashbuckler, who nipped at Federer's heels all season, won 11 titles and went 50-2 on clay.
• How much longer will Lindsay Davenport play? Turns out she made a wise move postponing her retirement, as she has been a force, finishing the season with the No. 1 ranking. But she hasn't won a Slam since 2000 and has repeatedly said she is looking forward to starting a family.
• Is Jennifer Capriati still playing? Yes. She missed all last season and underwent two shoulder surgeries, but she did not retire and reportedly wants to make her comeback at the Australian Open.
• Who are young players to watch?: Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdyck, Gael Monfils, Nicole Vaidisova, Sania Mirza and Shuai Peng.
email thisprint this