Did The French Open Jinx Martina?
I don't think Martina was jinxed - in as much as she was unlucky. She had Steffi at the FO 99 - but let her off the hook. I still wouldn't count Martina in 2003 if she is well enough to play it then.
Perhaps a jinxed Hingis will never have Paris In the Arena
Source: International Herald Tribune
Publication date: 2002-05-24
The draw for this year's French Open will be staged Friday, and one player whose name will not be pulled out of a bowl and placed on the big board is Martina Hingis, who underwent surgery to repair torn and loose left ankle ligaments on Monday.
The jinx continues.
Strange and unfortunate things happen to Hingis when Roland Garros comes along: some entirely her own fault, like her embarrassing and revealing tantrum during the 1999 final against Steffi Graf.
She should have won this tournament years ago. Instead, it is the only Grand Slam singles title she has not won, and as she recovers from her second ankle operation in less than eight months, you have to suspect that it is the only one she will never win.
Hingis must be suspicious by now, too. Her sense of manifest destiny, inculcated from birth by her mother and coach, Melanie Molitor, has taken a beating in the last four seasons. That is largely because manifest destiny was also part of the program at the Williams residence, and for now and probably the foreseeable future, Venus and Serena have the edge.
They have the speed, power and innate aggressiveness that Hingis lacks, and though clay has traditionally blunted some of their strengths, they are improving with the years and the slippery baseline rallies, as Serena's gritty victory at last week's Italian Open makes clear. But they are not yet the bold-type favorites at Roland Garros.
There is the defending champion, Jennifer Capriati, still full of muscle and hustle. There are also the Belgians, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters: a year older and a year better after their breakthrough seasons in 2001, when they played in the semifinals in Paris and Clijsters went on to lose a marathon final to Capriati. There is also France's talented yet emotionally brittle Amelie Mauresmo, who often seems stuck in Rodin's "thinker" pose between tournaments, matches, even points.
But for the first time since 1992, there will be no Hingis. She first entered the junior tournament in 1993 at age 12 and became the youngest person to win a Grand Slam junior title. She entered the main event the following year at 14, brimming with optimism and energy and a powerful sense that it was just a matter of time and experience before the big trophy would be hers, as well.
She has won the other clay-court titles that matter. She has even won two doubles titles at Roland Garros. But the one that matters most has slipped like red dust through her eager fingers.
In 1997, the year she dominated the women's game, she fell off a horse in the lead-up to Roland Garros and ended up losing practice time and losing 6-4, 6-2 in the final to Iva Majoli, who, it must be said, played the match of her life and who, it must also be said, has yet to make it past the quarterfinals in a major event since.
In 1998, Hingis appeared to be well on her way before being out- hit in the semifinals by Monica Seles, who was mourning the death of her father and playing on auto-pilot and emotion.
Then came 1999 and Hingis's emotional collapse against Graf: a final that looms even larger in memory because it was Graf's last Grand Slam title and the beginning of the end of Hingis's brief period of dominance. Her petulance that day in the face of a bad line call and adversity delivered a serious blow to Hingis's fan base. It was as if a window had been thrown open to her soul, and after taking a voyeuristic peek, all many of us wanted to do was pull the curtains. It has been difficult to reopen them with genuine enthusiasm. Her public remains deeply divided, as a fan poll conducted by a French magazine, Tennis, this year makes clear: Hingis was voted the second most likable women's player behind Capriati and also voted the most disagreeable player by a large margin.
"When you're young, sometimes you think things are owed to you," Hingis said recently of what has come to be known as "the Graf match."
Hingis, now all of 21, does not appear to feel that way any more. In 1999, when she was locked in her struggle with Graf, there was rage on her face as it slipped away. This January, when she lost to Capriati in a steam bath disguised as an Australian Open final, she looked more fearful than wrathful as she let four match points go. That disappointment might have floored a weaker person, but Hingis rebounded to win her next tournament in Tokyo. Like her or dislike her, you have to respect her resilience. And her candor.
"At times, I do wonder whether my guardian angel has abandoned me," she said recently.
After holding the No. 1 spot for a total of 209 weeks, Hingis is ranked No. 8. And if, as expected, she misses the next three months of competition because of surgery, she will drop far out of the top 10.
There have even been concerns expressed by her Swiss surgeon, Dr. Heinz Buehlmann, that joint damage in her ankles and feet and the pain that goes with it could force her to retire. Hingis made it clear this week that early retirement is not in her plans, but Buehlmann's comments should not be dismissed: As the man who operated successfully to repair torn ligaments in Hingis's right ankle last October, he must know her condition and limitations. With lucrative sponsorship contracts at stake, it would be in Hingis's interests to quash any retirement chatter, although it might also be in her interest to play up her physical ailments considering that she filed a $40 million lawsuit last year in New York against her former sponsor, Sergio Tacchini, claiming that the company's shoes damaged her feet and caused chronic injury problems.
Big money muddles so much, but it is clear is that if Hingis is to resume competing for major titles against the big-hitting Americans and Belgians, she needs to be completely fit. What is also clear, whether you like her or dislike her, is that the game needs her. Women's tennis has lost too many players too early: Maureen Connolly; Tracy Austin; Andrea Jaeger; Capriati for a time. Here's hoping Hingis gets many more chances to prove there is no such thing as a jinx.
Publication date: 2002-05-24
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