View Full Version : Hingis break could signal end of a stylish era

Oct 15th, 2002, 01:31 PM
I still feel as if the pressure has gotten to Martina. All of the young players coming up know they have to have some power to get and stay near the top. And they know they need at least a 100mph first serve.

I still hope Martina finds her way back though.


Hingis break could signal end of a stylish era

LONDON: Clutching a bottle of champagne, Martina Hingis smoothed down her traffic-stopping red dress and smouldered for the cameras.

She flashed a smile as brilliant as the glittering Australian Open trophy by her side and stood atop the tennis world.

It was 1999 and the enigmatic Swiss had just won her third consecutive Australian crown. Not only that, but aged 18 she had become the only player in history to win the same grand slam tournament in singles and doubles three straight years with three different partners.

That year she became the first woman to earn $3 million in prize money for three straight years. The girl who was named after the great Martina Navratilova and first picked up a tennis racket aged two was flying high. She was living the dream. As she soaked up the Melbourne sun and the adulation of tennis fans worldwide she would have been forgiven for thinking it could get no better. She would also have been right.

In decline: Since that defining moment more than three years ago Hingis has been in decline.

On Monday she dropped outside the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in six years, down to number 11.

Computer logic finally caught up with conventional wisdom. Her guile and speed is no longer sufficient to fend off the ever-growing band of powerhitters and they have overtaken her in numbers.

Where once there were perhaps one or two players capable of overpowering her, now there are many, and the steely Swiss is not prepared to delude herself. “I will not play any more tournaments this year. I need to free my mind,” she announced on Friday.

On the surface, the early end to her season can be attributed to physical ills and the premature return from ankle surgery in August. Her results on the tour since her return have been less than impressive and the Swiss, who played her first professional tournament aged 14 and conquered the number one spot at 16, conceded she had come back too soon.

Intimidating foes: “This created a downward spiral... in a sport where spirit and self-confidence are very important,” she said. “I decided I need some time to clear my head.”

Her head, perhaps, is in greater need of rest and rejuvenation, than her battle-weary body. Since 1999, the sound of her tactical brain has been heard ticking louder and more persistently than ever as she plotted her route back to the pinnacle of the sport. Only an exhaustive tournament schedule kept her at number one in the world as she mopped up second tier events at will. The major titles were going elsewhere.

Desperate to be no longer manhandled out of the way by larger, more intimidating foes — like a baseliner in Brobdingnag — the Swiss Hingis constantly refined her plans to beat brawn with brains. “I won’t have to turn into a bodybuilder, covered in bulging muscles… I just have to get better at what I am already good at — and that is tactical awareness,” she insisted after going agonisingly close to winning the Australian Open at the start of this year.

Sheepish demeanour: “For me it is all about my timing, reading the game, playing the right shots at the right time. “There is more finesse and elegance than power to my game. You know, over the last few years the other girls caught up with me and I just didn’t raise it.”

But timing and reading the game proved insufficient against the brutal power of her peers. The Williams sisters, first Venus then Serena, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati all gained a psychological edge over her. “There is no-one I need to be frightened of,” Hingis said earlier this year. But it is not a question of fear, rather one of belief.

Hingis’s belief must now be at breaking point. Still just 22 she has amassed a fortune from tennis. The sport has been kind to her, but it has also taken its fee. Her teenage years were spent under the media spotlight. Embarrassing on-court tantrums were broadcast live on television, spats with her mother and coach Melanie Molitor over boyfriends were the stuff of gossip columns.

Her faintly sheepish demeanour as she suffers early losses now has the detractors who objected to her teenage cockiness rubbing their hands with glee. It would come as no surprise if Martina Hingis’s break from tennis became a permanent one and the Swiss walked away to enjoy life away from the court.

Not a surprise but the end of an era when style and savvy counted for more than strength. —Reuters

Oct 15th, 2002, 02:51 PM
The author missed on an important point. Gile is a strong suit of Martina's. Speed is a WEAKNESS. Her lack of foot speed wasn't exposed when the top players were Steffi, Monica, Lindsay, Arantxa, Jana, Mary Jo, Conchi and Mary Pierce.

Speedwise, those palyers have been replaced by Venus and Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Daniela Hantuchova, Amelie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati, all players who simply run faster than Martina, and move just as well or better.

To my mind, the problem isn't Martina being overpowered. It that she can't make the ball go fast enough to get a winner past these players. Shots that are winners against Lindsay and Monica simply get run down and returned by the Williams sisters. And they aren't working hard to do it either.

Serendy Willick
Oct 15th, 2002, 03:17 PM
Geez this person acts like Martina died or something. Shell be back for the Austrailian next year.

Oct 15th, 2002, 03:29 PM
The Sisters don't win because of power and speed alone....they have savy and great tactical awareness as well..there are a lot of players with power and speed that don't win jakk!!!

Hingis was a great talent that was in the right place at the right time...'97 and '98 were the two weakest years in wta history..thats why few people watched womens tennis then

Hingis demise was caused by Lindsey getting fit, Venus and Serena becoming more tactically efficient and consistent and Jennifer using perfromance enhancers...IT'S NOT ABOUT WHAT HINGIS DIDN'T DO!!

Oct 15th, 2002, 04:33 PM
AmonRa777 you right well and make me laugh keep up the good work.:)

Oh yes, once again I agree with all you wrote good man!:D

Oct 15th, 2002, 04:37 PM
"thats why few people watched womens tennis then" :rolleyes:

Please speak for yourself. 1997-98 were just as exciting in the WTA as the present time.

Big Fat Pink Elephant
Oct 15th, 2002, 04:40 PM
I don't see the fun part that made what_about _me laugh...

Oct 15th, 2002, 04:47 PM
" Her faintly sheepish demeanor as she suffers early losses now has the detractors who objected to her teenage cockiness rubbing their hands with glee."

The author of this article must visit this board frequently.

Oct 15th, 2002, 04:50 PM
Martina was correct when she said she never elevated her game. IMO, that's what happened. While the other girls were getting better, she was getting worser.

Oct 15th, 2002, 05:22 PM
Pretty nice article.

Oct 15th, 2002, 10:03 PM
Hingis is the lone top-20 finesse player in the world. She knows that!!!!!! That's why I think over this break she will attempt to add power to her shots!!!!!! I have read before that she used to have a half decent serve but she injured her arm!!!!!!!! Hingis will be back!!!!!! GOOOO HINGIS!!!!!!!!!!! ;) :D

Oct 15th, 2002, 11:46 PM
I miss Martina :( Never I thought I'd say this one day.

Brian Stewart
Oct 16th, 2002, 12:19 AM
I have to disagree with headline of this article. The writer obviously doesn't follow women's tennis at all. To suggest that Hingis is the only one with style among the game's elite is absurd.

Henin plays primarily with style. Rubin incorporated more style and strategy into her game, and it enabled her to go toe-to-toe with the very best. Mauresmo has blended in style with her skills, and it's rounded out her game nicely. That's 3 top players right there.

Even the Williams sisters themselves, often cited as "Exhibit A" of the baseline bashers brigade, have added elements of style to their games. That's why they are 1 and 2.

While we're on the subject of the Williams sisters, they present an interesting scenario. It's been suggested by various tennis writers (some of whom have other agendas, but that's another issue), that the Williams sisters are "ruining" women's tennis by turning the tour into a bunch of baseline basher clones. I don't buy that. I can see the reverse happening.

Look at the players who have beaten the sisters this year. How did they do it? Largely by using tactics and "style". Why? Because the alternative is to stay back at the baseline and play hit-and-run. Slugging it out from the backcourt with either sister is suicide. And since the sisters have now become the benchmark on the tour, it becomes necessary to develop a game to beat them if you want to win the big tourneys. That means adding more tactical, all-court play. Which in turn means we should be seeing more matches along the lines of the old Venus/Martina duels in the later rounds of slams.

And getting back to Hingis, if she wants to be a part of it, she has work to do. When she was younger, she got away with a weaker serve. The explanation given then was that Coach Mama didn't want to put too much stress on the youngster's arm/shoulder. But then, as Hingis kept winning, she still didn't work on that serve. Her own excuse was that she was winning, so why bother? In this, Hingis has a sporting kinship with John McEnroe. Both were wildly talented, with incredible hands. But both shared an aversion to hard work. They've even made similar statements about playing doubles so they wouldn't have to practice as much.

Now, she has to buckle down. She's got to get fitter. Not to go out and blast away and try to bash winners. That's not her game, and she won't win the big prizes that way. Rather, it's to keep her opponents from doing same. She's got to be able to withstand the first strike (the key against a player whose game is predicated on poer), without getting pushed back into a defensive position. Likewise on the serve. She doesn't need to beef it up for the sake of blasting aces. She mainly needs to keep her opponents from attacking the serve and putting her on the defensive immediately. So she doesn't necessarly need to be in a winning position on her serves, just not in a losing one. She needs to be at least at a neutral area in the point.

And her serve has gotten weaker over the years. When she was #1 in 1997, her first serves were routinely around 100 MPH (as high as 106). Her second serves were in the 80's; about where her first serve is now. As she's gotten more defensive in her whole game, she's backed away on the serves too.

And that is the key. Contrary to what the writer said, the era of "style" isn't over. Far from it. But the era of passive play is passé. You can't just sit back and wait for errors any more. You may beat some lower-ranked players with that, but you'll get killed by the top ones.

Oct 16th, 2002, 01:46 AM
Great deduction and analysis Brian Stewart.

I'd like to add, that I agree that some players have won by using different tactics whilst playing the Sisters this year - but the Sisters have not lost that many matches. If I'm not mistaken - Chanda won many of her points by hitting powerful groundstrokes and cross court winners - hitting deep in the court.

IMO - the GREATEST weapon aginst the Sisters is to hit behind them - and/or shorten the angles - like Maggie did against Venus. Kim beat Venus in a close match - and IMO - she did it by hanging tough w/Venus by hitting the heavy groundstrokes, and it was not so much that she changed up so much. She had Venus on the run when it counted.

I agree Martina shouldn't try to beef up her serve just to hit aces -yet we know that hitting the well placed ace works. And I don't care what the speed is. In beating Lindsay @ the Miami 2000 - Martina served a very good match. And IMO - that is why she won. She hit some aces, & the speed was usually in the middle eighties and lower nineties. She was on on that day - and her serving was the key. IMO - she can get it back like that again. Of course, she was hitting the ball deep - and she changed the direction of the balls to where Lindsay was a step slow.

If in Martina's case it is the arm strength that she needs to work on - then I don't see why she can't get it like she had it back then. I mean - Lindsay had beaten her five straight times - to include a close match prior to that one in IW. If she finally found a way to beat a player that was on a 21 game or so winning match streak, and one that had beaten her five straight times - and had just taken the #1 ranking from her - why can't she beat her again? What's changed? Upper body strength maybe? If so - she can work on that.

Oct 16th, 2002, 01:48 AM
Brian - I think I've got it! It's the word "WILL." Martina doesn't seem to have the same will like she used to - does she?

Oct 16th, 2002, 03:18 AM
I think Martina's mom summed it upperfectly when she stated " Hingis is not a great fighter" or perhaps it was mario. i dunno, but i am really disappointed in Hingis for not improving her game in over 4 years. imagine how good she would have been had she improved that serve and gotten into beter shape. Imean really, how many grand slams has her fitnes cost her. i can easily think of 4 grand slam finals or semis that she has lost just becus she couldnt keep up the pace with the much fitter players. what a waste of talent. i hope she proves me wrong. I used to live for her matches against Venus, Serena and Lindsay. but now i fele so sory fo rher if she makes it far enuff in the draw to play them, because i know they are going to crush her first and second serves and her weak, tactless groundies. and in the end they smile and pat her on the back and say "hope u feel better" or "good match". i mean was 1999 final against serena not enuff for her to say ok ineed o do some work. i mean look at Lindsay , Venus and Jennifer and to a certain extent serena and Kim. Their main focus was always on improving and adding to their games. To the williams sisters' credit, there has not been a year that they have come back on tour without anew weapon, whether its a new drop shot, a new angle, a new forehand, a new serve, etc. pretty soon venus and serena will own every shot in the book. And God knows they are not afraid to show off their new shots. they feel as long as they try it, they will improve on it. and guess what, theyare right. I wish martina would learn, or soon sh eis gonna be history and that would be so sad for a talent such as she. serena in my opinion is what Martina would be if sh ewere perhaps a bit taller. Serena is deceptively crafty and strategic in her play. and God forbid she actually improves her dropshot and volleys. she will definately dominate for a while. Hopefully some of the other girls can step up their games to compete. imagine how fun that would be for fans!