Great info. I just love The Desert Sun newspaper. Talk about thourough. Every year they crank out some good stuff.
Sorry if this has been posted.
Thomas St. Myer
The Desert Sun
March 9, 2006
INDIAN WELLS - Seated on the dais for her press conference Wednesday afternoon at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Martina Hingis winced and held her hand up to shield her eyes from the bright overhead lights that shone down on her.
For probably the first time since her comeback, Hingis appeared uncomfortable under the spotlight.
Back after a three-year absence, the 25-year-old Hingis arguably shines brightest today among all active tennis players in the public eye. Take Wednesday afternoon at the Tennis Garden for example.
Ranked 32nd in the world and seeded 19th in the Pacific Life Open, Hingis drew a crowd of 200-plus to Court B for her practice session. A dozen or so shot photos of her and the words, "She's still got it," echoed out of the mouths of multiple onlookers.
"I heard a lot of talking about Martina. She was out of competition for three years and that's a lot. When I saw her a couple years ago, she said she was fine, was without pain and she doesn't miss it at all," No. 8 in the world Elena Dementieva said.
"I was very surprised when she came back, but I was also very happy she came back. It's great for the tour and great for tennis that she's back."
A dominant player on the tour until 2001 when injuries slowed her down, Hingis stepped away from tennis at age 22 after surgery on her left ankle in 2002. She stayed off the court the next two years and let her body heal until last year when she played World Team Tennis where she notched singles victories over two players ranked in the top 100.
"In team tennis I'm beating some girls 5-1 that are ranked 75, 80 in the world and I'm thinking, 'OK, I've still got game,'" Hingis said.
Her confidence boosted by that success, the Swiss star announced her return to the tour last November and she accepted a wild card invitation to play Filderstadt at Pattaya City. She promptly lost in the first round to Marlene Weingartner 1-6, 6-2, 6-2, but remained committed to her 2006 comeback.
Holder of five Grand Slam singles (three Australian, Wimbledon, U.S. Open), Hingis kicked off her comeback at Gold Coast where she upset seventh-seed Klara Koukalova 6-3, 6-2 and took fourth-seed Flavia Pennetta to three sets before bowing out in the semifinals 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2. Two weeks later, Hingis entered the Australian Open where she won four matches and advanced to the quarterfinals before a three-set loss to No. 1 Kim Clisters 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
The following week at Tokyo the tennis world took notice when Hingis dismantled top-seed and fifth-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals. But in the final Dementieva returned the favor with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Hingis who last won a tournament in 2002 (Sydney).
"I don't think there are any weak points (in my game), now it's just a matter of lasting the whole tournament," Hingis said. "Sooner or later it will happen and if it doesn't it's not the world going down. Nothing dramatic will happen. I'm not going to die because of that."
Before she stepped away from tennis in 2002, Hingis said her life revolved around winning tournament titles and securing her spot atop the rankings. From 1997 through 2000 she held the No. 1 ranking except for 1998 when she finished second. She captured her first Grand Slam title at age 16 when she won the 1997 Australian Open and she proceeded to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Only a loss in the finals of the French Open prevented her from a Grand Slam. Hingis tacked on another two Australian Open titles over the next two years, but from 1998 through 2002 she lost six Grand Slam finals and she eventually wore down emotionally.
"When you're 17 winning Grand Slams and you become No.1 in the world you're like what's next. Tennis was always priority in my life and so it is now again. I just really have nothing to prove anymore," Hingis said. "Sometimes before when you're No. 1 week in and week out you're kind of in that stress and pressure field. Now I feel like I'm the underdog and I go out there with nothing to prove.
"I always had fun but sometimes it's just stress when for four years you're the hunted one and your body doesn't always allow you to do what you want to. It's frustrating. Nobody stops at 22 without a reason. It's all stress for your body and your head. You just kind of lose the motivation because you know you can't play the best tennis."
Re-energized and stress free after her time off, Hingis takes a respectable 16-6 record into the Pacific Life Open. She lost a rematch with Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals at Dubai two weeks ago and last week she bowed out in the semifinals at Doha when top-seeded and second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo defeated her 6-2, 6-2. But on the bright side, Hingis defeated both 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets en route to her showdowns with Sharapova and Mauresmo.
"I've shown I can still play tennis. You've had those comebacks over the years with Steffi (Graf) was injured and came back after a year, Monica (Seles), Jennifer (Capriati). Everybody knows we could play tennis at one stage of our lives," Hingis said. Why shouldn't it be like that again? Of course you need some matches and some tournaments to play so you gain your confidence back. That happened and I'm very pleased where I am at, at the moment."
Hearing about Hingis from her peers:
"A great player is a great player. She's very young and she's one of the great players we've had. It's silly to think at 25 that she wouldn't be so good. I heard she was hitting balls the whole time she was away. I think she's going to be great when she puts her mind to it and focuses. "
"It's exciting when you see Martina across the net. I watched her when I was growing up and practicing. I didn't follow her tournament to tournament, but I knew obviously who she was. It's kind of cool to see her across the net playing now. The last two tournaments we've played each other. but I don't know about a rivalry. It is exciting that we have someone who has achieved so much and is coming back, and you have me who's like a rookie compared to her. "
"You can tell she's been practicing a lot before this comeback. She tried to come back last year, but lost to (Marlene) Weingartner and she realized if she wants to come back, she can't just pick up a racket and step on the court. She realized she needed to practice and that's what she did. You can tell she's been practicing a lot before this comeback. She can still beat a lot of players, but it's still hard for her to compete with Amelie (Mauresmo) or Maria (Sharapova). It's hard to be back at the level she was, but she is playing good, she still has a lot the same game. "