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View Full Version : Overpowered or Overruled? (1 April from The Age) Discussion of Dokic, Hingis et. al.


eshell
Apr 1st, 2003, 08:51 PM
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.

eshell
Apr 1st, 2003, 09:08 PM
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.

Brian Stewart
Apr 2nd, 2003, 08:23 AM
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.

tazban1
Apr 2nd, 2003, 09:26 AM
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?

Volcana
Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:31 AM
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.

King Lindsay
Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:43 AM
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.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:49 AM
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.

King Lindsay
Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:54 AM
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.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 10:59 AM
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.

King Lindsay
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:07 AM
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.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:21 AM
...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.

King Lindsay
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:25 AM
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.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:31 AM
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.

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:35 AM
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

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:42 AM
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. :sad:

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 11:45 AM
actually that era has ended long ago

martina is one of the few who brings it back

doloresc
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:25 PM
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.

i agree. there will be another finesse player to come forward and challenge the big hitters. however, she better have an all court game because all the finesse in the world is not going to overcome the barrage of power coming from the serena's and capriati's of the world. it's a bit stubborn, in my opinion, to think that finesse is enough to pose a threat (i realize you didn't say that, king lindsay). in hingis' final years, she was put on the defensive in the majority of her matches, and the big hitters were having their way with her. part of her retirement is physical but i believe it's mental as well. hingis was feeling defeated at a game she once dominated while her body was letting her down as well.

tennischick i completely agree with your comment, "Hingis' particular style of game no longer works in this era of power." it really is the truth (no offense to hingis fans).

bandabou
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:32 PM
Kim ain't the best retriever in the game! Remember: Serena is the best retriever! Can you say: only 6 winners in two sets?! The reason Hingis retired is because her pride is hurt. She knows that she can't compete for no.1 anymore. I think she knew that Serena was bound to be the best on the tour. Remember the '01 U.S. open semi's?! To me that was the worst beating for Hingis ever! She had absolutely no chance to win that match!

And about power game and finesse bla bla! Serena said this herself:"Actually I don't hit that hard anymore. Anyone can hit hard, but you have to keep in play!" Plus that backhand against Kim or that dropshot against Jen I don't think that's part of the power game. The thing's why go in 50 stroke rally if you can end the point in two or three strokes?! That's called efficiency!

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:37 PM
of course serena doesnt think it's hard
it just shows how much power she has

as for the 2001 US SF, it certainly wasnt disgraceful that martina lost. in fact i've never seen anyone play better before or ever since (even serena has not repeated that performance IMO)

that martina lost 3 and 2 in a match where anyone else would have gotten a breadstick at least shows how good she is (she wasnt playing her best btw)

bandabou
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:46 PM
Serena has repeated that perfomance! Remember the Wimbledon Semi's of last year?! That was another destruction! I'm telling u a Serena even at 70 % is at a level to high for anyone to catch her!

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 12:52 PM
i hardly think that her performance is last year's wimby SF was as good.
after all, she didnt exactly get all her first serves in and won all the points where she got her 1st serve in in the second set, did she?

she did that against martina, who is probably the most consistent returner of serves (esp. 1st serves)

on top of that, if you still believe that serena has duplicated her performance, then my point is proved, for mauresmo did receive a breadstick in that match

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:16 PM
Kim ain't the best retriever in the game! Remember: Serena is the best retriever! Can you say: only 6 winners in two sets?! The reason Hingis retired is because her pride is hurt. She knows that she can't compete for no.1 anymore. I think she knew that Serena was bound to be the best on the tour. Remember the '01 U.S. open semi's?! To me that was the worst beating for Hingis ever! She had absolutely no chance to win that match!

And about power game and finesse bla bla! Serena said this herself:"Actually I don't hit that hard anymore. Anyone can hit hard, but you have to keep in play!" Plus that backhand against Kim or that dropshot against Jen I don't think that's part of the power game. The thing's why go in 50 stroke rally if you can end the point in two or three strokes?! That's called efficiency!
i don't think we're having the same conversation but i'll try.

if you read above you will see my reference to that dropshot and my statement that finesse occurs at every level. most players incorporate finesse touches into their game. what i was referring to (thanks doloresc for understanding! :kiss: ) is Hingis' particluar style of finesse game.

furthermore, it is an insult to Serena (whom i love so back off) to refer to her as a retriever. yes she retrieves well -- all of the top players do -- but this is not the foundation of her game. Serena is an attacking, aggressive, in-your-face kind of player. she is not a retriever in the way that i mean it. but Kim is. that is the basis of her game. she runs down everything and gets it back. she doesn't even try to score winners -- she just retrieves and forces you to come up with the winner or make the mistake. Serena's game is much more aggressive than that. Serena wins by exerting control. Kim sometimes wins by retrieving the ball and keeping it in play.

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:18 PM
wait. we need to clear something.

kim is a retriever? i know she retrieves but i would hardly call her game the retrieving kind.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:21 PM
i just made my case for Kim being a retriever. read above and feel free to disagree. :p

moby
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:26 PM
ok. maybe she just does that against venus and serena?

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:29 PM
i disagree. like Hewitt, she does it against everybody. and this is not a criticism -- it's just her game and it works for her (for them!) just fine. and i do think she is currently the best at it.

King Aaron
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:29 PM
I have to agree that Serena played awesomely well against Martina at 2001 US Open. I also think she hasn't duplicated that performance. Somewhere close to it yes but not the same or on a higher level.

Eventually someone will bring finesse back and to say it will never work against the hard-hitters is pre-mature I think. You never know what will happen. It wasn't too long ago when the Williams sisters brought power tennis to a new level. Hopefully someone can do the same with finesse.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:31 PM
yes but no-one ever said that tennis couldn't be played more powerfully. i actually think that there will be players in the future who will play with even more power than the Sisters. remember when Steffi was the definition of power? well the Sisters surpassed her and others will surpass them.

tennischick
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:34 PM
easy:
understand that i am not saying that Kim NEVER hits winners. she does and she can be aggressive (like Hewitt). but the basis of her game IMO is retrieving. and she does it excellently.

i'm off :wavey: :wavey:

King Aaron
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:38 PM
Is finesse at the top of its level when Martina played? Can it ever be played on a whole new level? If those were questions I'm supposed to answer, my answer will be 'I don't know'. How about you?

Yes, with the technology now I won't be surprised if the Williams' won't be surpassed in terms of power.

bandabou
Apr 2nd, 2003, 01:49 PM
Now I understand what you meant tennischick. I agree with you. Kim's the golden retriever kind, mostly retrieving and just a bit attack to keep things honest, and Serena is more like a pitbull. Attack, attack but can retrieve too.

And that's why she isn't a true challenger for the Williams crown. Offense will always beat defense! If can't get offensive, her chances against the Williams will always be slim!!

Raisin
Apr 2nd, 2003, 02:08 PM
"no she didn't retire. she was chased out of the sport by the William sisters!".
That's what my mom thinks too :cool:

And a few months ago in the "Tribune de Genève" the Geneva daily newspaper, they had a caricature of Hingis on horseback and a fan of hers asking when she will comeback and she said not until the Williams sister retire :o

eshell
Apr 2nd, 2003, 02:10 PM
I honestly think that Hingis' body is injured more than her pride. Obviously, years of intense training took a toll on her body.

It would be great if she could come back to the WTA. I miss Chucky. :sad:

tennischick
Apr 3rd, 2003, 12:06 AM
Now I understand what you meant tennischick. I agree with you. Kim's the golden retriever kind, mostly retrieving and just a bit attack to keep things honest, and Serena is more like a pitbull. Attack, attack but can retrieve too.

And that's why she isn't a true challenger for the Williams crown. Offense will always beat defense! If can't get offensive, her chances against the Williams will always be slim!!
er...Hewitt is the best retriever on the men's tour and he is the #1 player in the world. yes he's beatable -- down in the Men's Tennis Forum we have a running thread on the guys who have beaten him. but his style of play is damned effective bec not only does he retrieve well but he also plays the angles well and has all the shots, including an increasingly effective serve. don't underestimate the effectiveness of this style of tennis when it is well done.

yes against Kim i will always give Serena the edge, especially if she keeps her commitment to getting fitter and cutting down on the # of errors she makes. but don't ever dismiss Kim as an effective challenger. i don't think she will beat Serena all of the times but i think that she can win sometimes. we saw how close she came to doing so in Australia.

and remember that Serena herself used to have a choking problem. if she can get over hers why can't Kim?

bandabou
Apr 4th, 2003, 12:36 PM
The thing's that Serena has more potential than Kim does. Everyone knew from the day Serena beat STEFFI GRAF!! at IW'99 that the girl was something else! Remember she beat Steffi in a final of a tier I as a 17 year old and in only her second match against her!! I don't think Serena had choking problems. Look at her finals record: 22-6! She won her first two finals and 4 out her first 5! I don't call that choking!!

tennischick
Apr 4th, 2003, 12:53 PM
Serena USED TO have choking problems earlier in her career. i'm surprised that you can't recall some of her earlier difficulties. you don't seem to be referring to any specific matches but just to her statistics. how well have you been following her game and its development? :confused:

the good news is that she doesn't choke anymore. that's history. i think that Kim will also get over her choking problem. hey is Jana Novotna could get over hers, there's hope for everyone...;)

bandabou
Apr 4th, 2003, 01:05 PM
I only recall two matches that can be really called choking by Serena. Against Hingis at the '01 Oz open and against Capriati '01 Wimbledon. The Hingis match is a classic...but I think Hingis just stepped it up more than Serena in the end.I think it is fair to say that she has had more comebacks than she has had chokejobs.