Overpowered or Overruled? (1 April from The Age) Discussion of Dokic, Hingis et. al. - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 1st, 2003, 09:51 PM Thread Starter
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Overpowered or Overruled? (1 April from The Age) Discussion of Dokic, Hingis et. al.

An interesting article about the 'Capriati Rule' and the WTA

Overpowered or overruled?
April 1 2003




When the claycourt season starts this week, Martina Hingis will be missing for the first time since 1995. If this is the end, why? Linda Pearce reports.


The differences between Martina Hingis and Jelena Dokic extend beyond the obvious contrasts in playing style and parental influence. Hingis was the last of the child stars, a grand slam junior winner at 12 and full-time touring pro at 14; for all Dokic's objections to the age restrictions that governed her own emergence, hers is an example of a career paced by the rules Hingis was able to circumvent.

It is almost nine years since the Women's Tennis Council responded to concerns about the physical and/or emotional burnout of the game's young - notably Jennifer Capriati and, before her, Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger - by forming an independent commission to review the age eligibility rule. The resulting changes came into effect in 1995, banning 13-year-olds from senior tournaments and introducing a sliding scale of events girls could play before turning 18.

But, back then, there would be no restricting Hingis. To avoid delaying what was destined to be a brilliant career, the gifted Czech-born Swiss played three tournaments and established a double-figure ranking in 1994, the year in which Venus Williams also hurried to make her debut and ensure an exemption from the rules about to be tightened.

Soon enough, Hingis and the elder Williams met in their first grand slam final, the 1997 US Open, yet although the American has always chosen to follow a schedule limited by educational and other lifestyle choices, Hingis set about accumulating countless youngest-ever and accolades.

Although it is difficult to judge the impact of such an early start, and impossible to know what fate would have befallen Hingis had her entry to the game been delayed as it would be today, the reality is that, nine years on, she is worn out; at the age of 22 and suffering from chronic foot pain that she says restricts her time on the practice court so severely that she can no longer compete with the best, Hingis spends her days driving her Porsche to English classes and riding her new mare while distancing herself from the idea of a comeback.


At least, for all Dokic's problems, physical breakdown is not yet among them, although she continues to slide down the WTA rankings from her peak at No. 4 to her current place at No. 10. The one-time Australian has replaced her violent and destructive father with a qualified coach, Steffi Graf's former mentor Heinz Gunthardt, yet Dokic continues to push herself through more tournaments than any other member of the top 50, and plays more than the Williams sisters combined. The strain of her exertions, on and off the court, is showing.

Perhaps Dokic, soon to turn 20, is now in the position to make more of her own choices, more often, even if contesting the Australian circuit is unlikely to be one of them. (Her personal notes in this year's WTA media guide include brother Savo and mother Liliana, with no mention of estranged Daddy Damir).

Still, one can only wonder had the age eligibility rules not been overhauled in 1994, whether burnout would already have claimed another top-10 victim.

What exactly is ailing Hingis has been the source of as much discussion as the debate about her place among the game's greats, and whether, as has been argued, she was more than a transitional No. 1 who filled a temporary, pre-Williams hole at the top of the women's game.

Lindsay Davenport, who returned from a knee injury last year, has advised the five-time grand slam tournament winner, whose last major title was the 1999 Australian Open, to stop feeling sorry for herself and play through the pain. After all, if Lance Armstrong can beat cancer, and Thomas Muster could practice for hours each day in a wheelchair, what's stopping Martina?

One theory is that it has to do with everything having come so easily to Hingis before she was overwhelmed by the power-hitters for whom she could find no adequate means of counter-attack in her last 13 grand slams; that, after 209 weeks at the top, her pride and ego are more damaged than either of her feet.

What is not being disputed is that the loss of Hingis means the near-death of variety among the women's elite. Who else is so creative and instinctive? Who else relies so heavily on touch, placement, subtlety and tactical nous? Who else, apart from perhaps Justine Henin-Hardenne, can protest by their performances and mere presence that size and strength are not everything?

No one, sadly, and the latest indication that Hingis will not return came last month, in an interview with a Zurich newspaper, just weeks after admitting to a French publication that a return to the tour was "inconceivable". Speaking in Swiss-German, Hingis said "my dreams are over. Tennis will certainly still be part of my life, but not what it was before".

Despite all that, a more optimistic - or sceptical - view prevails elsewhere, and the WTA must await an official retirement announcement from her management company before removing Hingis from the rankings, where the former No. 1 has now dropped to 77th. It could well be that no such statement will be forthcoming until her lucrative endorsement deals expire, for the contracts of injured players must be honoured; not so, necessarily, for retirees.

And yet there is still hope in some circles of a Hingis comeback. She could, of course, take a break of four years, repair her body and freshen her mind, polish her English, ski, hike and ride, and still be just 26.

Whether she chooses to do it again, and whether her body permits it, may be another matter.

Meantime, Hingis serves as a reminder that the so-called Capriati Rules came too late for some and were skirted by others - to the game's detriment, perhaps, as much as to the welfare of its players.

Last edited by eshell; Apr 1st, 2003 at 11:20 PM.
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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 1st, 2003, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Some parts melodrama but an interesting read...

Quote:
Originally Posted by eshell
An interesting article about the 'Capriati Rule' and the WTA

One theory is that it has to do with everything having come so easily to Hingis before she was overwhelmed by the power-hitters for whom she could find no adequate means of counter-attack in her last 13 grand slams; that, after 209 weeks at the top, her pride and ego are more damaged than either of her feet.

What is not being disputed is that the loss of Hingis means the near-death of variety among the women's elite. Who else is so creative and instinctive? Who else relies so heavily on touch, placement, subtlety and tactical nous? Who else, apart from perhaps Justine Henin-Hardenne, can protest by their performances and mere presence that size and strength are not everything?

.
I've read these sentiments on the WTAWorld site before. There are other players with variety and good instincts. Oftentimes, these comments make me think that all women play the same game with no differences.

However, I do realize that the top women can all play with power. A top woman with great variety is Amelie Mauresmo. When everything is working in her game, she is amazing.

Anyway, I'd be interested in reading your thoughts about this article and the alleged dearth of variety in the WTA.
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 09:23 AM
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My fave has resurrected her career by incorporating variety in her game. She's tempered her power for the sake of consistency, much like Agassi. For example, in this past week's matches with Justine and Jen (the only 2 we saw on TV), Chanda was hitting her forehand regularly at about 3/4 pace, if that, and was able to rally successfully at that speed. (Her placement got her in trouble, not a lack of pace.) She was striking a nice balance between the power game and the variety game. And she certainly doesn't overwhelm anyone with size, being only ½" taller than Justine.

Odd note: the people who have flustered Serena in the past year with a varied game (Patty, Justine, Chanda, Emilie) are all short. Maybe the other players are too tall?

Many of these "one-dimensional" top players have exhibited more variety in recent years. That's how they got to the top. If you just bash away, you aren't going to win. But most writers (a lot of whom don't actually watch WTA matches) are quick to pigeonhole the tour. I remember the stereotype of about 15 years ago, where all of the WTA players were supposed to be moonballers. This stereotype persisted even though moonballers never even made up half of the top 10 at any stage.
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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:26 AM
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I don't get how the age eligibility rules, or lack thereof, have anything to do with Hingis. Didn't Hingis' main problem begin with some freak accident and some bad shoes? How can age eligibility rules prevent that?
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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:31 AM
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There's no proof Martina's foot problems were caused by bad shoes. Or any 'freak accident'. Right now, it looks like the same 'physical injuries caused by over-training at too young an age that got Tracy Austin, and so many other players we've never heard of, cause injuries got them too early. And that's exactly what the AER is all about. Hingis CLAIMS in a lawsuit, that her foot problems were caused by her shoes, but no one has ever seen any evidence to back this up.

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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:43 AM
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volcana, i think the "freak accident" he was talking about was her October 2001 fall while playing Davenport which forced her to have her first surgery.
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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:49 AM
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when i called a friend of mine to tell him the news that Hingis had retired, he replied, "no she didn't retire. she was chased out of the sport by the William sisters!". at first i found his position uncharitable, but more and more i'm thinking that it's true. Hingis' particular style of game no longer works in this era of power.

as for the seriousness of her injuries, none of us really know. i hope that the lawsuit gets settled soon enuf and lays all questions to rest.

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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tennischick
Hingis' particular style of game no longer works in this era of power.
I can't believe the number of people that believe that. It was working well enough to get one point from a Grand slam title last year, and that after her first surgery. The idea that finesse is now a defunct gamestyle is ridiculous and you just wait ... somebody else will come along to prove me right.
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:59 AM
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i would love it if u were right King Lindsay bec i miss her game. but i honestly believe that if a ball is returned to you so hard that the racket in your hand trembles from the impact, no amount of Hingis-style finesse would ever be effective against the onslaught.

"For now, Roddick seems to play with the intelligence of a fence post."
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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:07 PM
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So that's why you must take measures to ensure that doesn't happen. Or at least, doesn't happen very much.

Finesse is like rock and roll. It will never die. there will always be room in tennis for it.
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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Lindsay
...Finesse is like rock and roll. It will never die. there will always be room in tennis for it.
of course. at the lower ends of the rankings. and on the clay courts. and i love it.

"For now, Roddick seems to play with the intelligence of a fence post."
Greg Couch, Chicago Sun Times
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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:25 PM
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No, not just at the lower ends of the ranking. I'm not prepared to believe that Hingis' demise came about because her game became obsolete. i don't think that's true, and even if she doesn't return, eventually there will be another finesse player that can bring it back to the forefront.
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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:31 PM
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finesse is evident at every level. when Serena hit that beautiful drop-shot against capriati in Miami, that was finesse.

but a game built exclusively on it will no longer be able to dominate the sport. it's not physically possible.

"For now, Roddick seems to play with the intelligence of a fence post."
Greg Couch, Chicago Sun Times
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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:35 PM
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the problem is not in generating power, but coping with the power
they are too very different things

you can COPE with power and still not be a power player

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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by easy
the problem is not in generating power, but coping with the power
they are too very different things

you can COPE with power and still not be a power player
fair enuf. and i think it's fair to say that Hingis couldn't cope with the Sister's power. Kim does a better job of coping with it. she is probably the best retriever on the women's game, as her boyfriend is probably the best on the men's. but she is not a finesse player in the Hingis mould.

and the problem is not only one of being able to cope with the power. a finesse player (a la Hingis) remains at a disadvantage no matter how good she becomes at absorbing the power of the returns coming back to her. it means that no matter what she does with the ball, the powerful return is going to make naught of her shot time after time. this is the new reality. i wish it were not so but i think that we are indeed seeing the end of an era.

"For now, Roddick seems to play with the intelligence of a fence post."
Greg Couch, Chicago Sun Times
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