Iain Carter in Melbourne
Sunday January 27, 2002
As Jennifer Capriati enjoyed a celebratory dinner with her family, her beaten opponent chewed over the most demoralising defeat of her career - one that poses the question of whether Martina Hingis will ever again have the physical and mental power to win a Grand Slam title.
In the immediate aftermath of Hingis's third successive Australian Open final defeat, the Swiss former world number one defiantly sounded an upbeat note. 'I know I have to look positive in the future,' she said after missing four championship points as Capriati triumphed 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.
'There's next week, next tournament, next Grand Slams,' added the player who missed the last month of 2001 with torn ankle ligaments. 'I exceeded my expectations at this tournament. I think I proved to myself again that I can play really good tennis and I have the chance to beat anybody out there.'
They are perfectly laudable sentiments, but the facts tell an unwelcome story for those who yearn for a return to the days when a player's court craft could overcome physical power in the women's game. Hingis's guile and tactical acumen brought her as close to victory as is possible without actually clinching it.
Both players suffered enormously in the suffocating heat of the Rod Laver Arena, where the on-court temperature touched 46 degrees Celsius. Each needed to sit down between points in the latter stages of the second and third sets, and before the decider they were afforded a 10-minute break during which they were covered in ice in the cool of the locker room.
Ultimately, Capriati groggily emerged the stronger and for the twelfth Grand Slam running the prize went to the power player. Not since Hingis last triumphed at Melbourne Park in 1999 has brain beaten brawn for one of the major women's crowns, and the 21-year-old Swiss has now lost the last five Grand Slam finals she has played.
That's not to say Capriati's game lacks intelligence. It is based on sound tactics and she cleverly changed the pace of her hitting as she thrillingly overcame a 4-0 deficit in the second set. But her greatest attribute is her strength of mind, which is no surprise considering the extraordinary journey her life has taken.
From 14-year-old millionaire to teenage drop-out and back to the very pinnacle of her chosen career has been a roller-coaster ride that has had Hollywood producers salivating in anticipation of a blockbuster life-story movie.
Capriati's one and only concern, though, is tennis and yesterday's success can only embolden the world number one for the coming year. 'I had a lot to deal with out there, I had a lot on my shoulders, just being the defending champion, trying to keep the number-one status and dealing with the conditions,' she said. 'I didn't feel like I was playing my best tennis in the beginning, but I really just fought hard, so it means a lot to me. As long as you just stay in there and try your hardest and try to fight, it can win you matches.'
Her father, Stefano, watched on with glowing pride, while Hingis's mother, Melanie Molitor, looked aghast at her daughter's plight. And it could be argued that the happiest tennis parent wasn't anywhere near Melbourne Park. If he'd bothered to watch the final on television back home in Florida, Richard Williams would surely have been delighted with what he'd seen.
The first Grand Slam final of the year was undoubtedly rich in heat-induced drama and courage, but Williams will have noted how error-prone were both finalists as they fought to cope with the conditions. It would be hard to envisage a fit Venus or Serena Williams struggling in such a fashion.
It's worth noting that only injury scuppered the Williams campaign for this Australian Open. Serena turned her ankle during a warm-up tournament and the double Wimbledon and US Open champion, Venus, suffering tendinitis and hamstring problems before falling to Monica Seles in the quarter-finals.
Hingis's pain came in the final. She admitted that she was suffering so much in the heat the result was of secondary importance. 'I just wanted to have it behind me, no matter what. I didn't care - you should always care, but it was impossible. After that second set in the 10-minute break I was like, "No way, I've got to go out there again." I wished I could have stopped it at that point.'
There is no way Capriati would make such an admission. She wanted it more and that's why she will be the more potent force and greater rival to Venus Williams in 2002. Having given her all in Melbourne to come so close, it's asking an awful lot of Hingis to find the will to be a factor.
· Iain Carter is BBC Radio's tennis correspondent
Jan 27th, 2002, 09:38 PM
Fearless Capriati triumphs
By Richard Hinds
Jennifer Capriati had trailed by one set and, at 0-4 in the second, faced a break point for 0-5. Later, four times she was just the width of the line or a let cord away from defeat. So, the Australian Open champion could say without fear of contradiction that she had achieved no better victory than her incredible, fighting comeback over Martina Hingis in Saturday's final.
After all, in the history of grand slam finals, there had been no greater turnaround. No-one had ever saved four match points and gone on to win, let alone done it in a centre court furnace that affected both players so badly they rested on linesmen's chairs between points.
Of even greater credit to Capriati was her uncanny ability to come up with a clean winner on the big points. Almost perverse, given how badly she had struggled early in the match to play some of the small ones. The statistic that will always be recounted from the match is the four match points Capriati saved in the second set. But noted just as prominently should be the fact that near-disaster was usually averted with brave, aggressive strokes that proved the American was not merely good enough to win but also not afraid to lose.
Having passed such a searching test, the American deserved all the accolades she received. Certainly her second Australian Open trophy. Perhaps even the $1million prize cheque.
Unquestionably, Capriati was heroic to crawl back from the brink in the most trying conditions which she could recall. She displayed enormous mental toughness to endure a match in which a series of enforced breaks gave the players barely sufficient time to recover, but also too much time to think. But this wasn't a title she could have won without assistance from the other side of the net.
Capriati said repeatedly after the match that she didn't know how she had won. Her enormous heart on match points was one reason. The fact that she had prepared for the event in Florida, while Hingis spent her winter in Switzerland rehabilitating after ankle surgery, was another factor. Just as significant was Hingis's meltdown in the latter stages of the second set, when it seemed she had the match won.
The collapse was not as spectacular as Hingis's self-destruction in the 1999 French Open final against Steffi Graf, when frustration at her inability to close out the match turned to bitter recrimination with the umpire, the jeering crowd and, it seemed, the world.
To her credit, this time Hingis handled what must have been a shattering defeat with grace and dignity. She even had to endure being foot-faulted three times consecutively, although that was not until the third set, when she had used her last reserves of energy and virtually surrendered. But, given that defeat at Roland Garros was the first of what is now a 12 grand slam losing streak for the former world No1, you can't help but think it continues to haunt her.
Again on Saturday, Hingis had the engraver preparing to etch the first letter of her name into the trophy. Again, she could not conquer her own doubts. While she has been cast recently as a waif in a land of tennis giants, it was not the size and the powerful strokes of her opponent that cost the Swiss victory but the nerves that seized her near the finish line.
As choking goes, it was not quite Novotna-esque. But, after the match, had she sobbed on the shoulder of Terry Bracks (wife of Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and about the only prominent female dignitary on standby) no-one would have been surprised.
Choking is, for some reason, a controversial word to use and a difficult concept to define. It is not merely performing poorly in a pressure situation, but that horrible moment when you can tell an athlete is going to make a mistake before they hit a four-iron or crank a serve.
At a number of vital moments in the second set, you could see those thought-bubbles above Hingis's head. You could feel the racquet tightening in her hand and almost hear the butterflies flying around in her stomach.
It resulted in a couple of terrible unforced errors at vital moments, but was most evident in her serve. Not the biggest in the women's game, her second serve when facing set point in the second set tie-breaker barely snuck over the net at a paltry 93kmh and was put away. Hingis's racquet flew from her hand at a much greater speed.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, Hingis admitted she has a problem finishing off her opponents. "Later on, yes, I had match points," she said. "But at set and 4-0 you shouldn't give it away any more. But I think in the last few I have had this problem to close it out."
So the question must again be asked - will Hingis win another grand slam title? Clearly, but not until she conquers her own doubts, or faces an opponent less forgiving than Capriati.
On the other hand, Capriati should take enormous confidence from this victory into the rest of the year. A fairytale winner last year, she has now won three of the past five grand slam titles and set about creating for herself a prominent place in the game's history.
Jan 27th, 2002, 09:42 PM
Hingis ready to win back Pan Pacific Open tennis
AFP [ SUNDAY, JANUARY 27, 2002 3:15:34 PM ]
OKYO: Martina Hingis is back in form and ready to reclaim the Tokyo indoor title she has won three times before at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament, which gets underway on Tuesday.
After failing to win a tournament for eight months in 2001, the 21-year-old Swiss miss had a three-month layoff for left ankle surgery to lose her world number one ranking.
But Hingis proved she had regained her top form by winning her season-opener at the Sydney International and reaching the final at the Australian Open where she lost to American Jeniffer Capriati on Saturday.
"Beginning this year with a win in Sydney and the final (at Melbourne) is a lot better than I expected," said Hingis, ranked fourth.
"It's great feeling fresh at the start of the year. I definitely feel better than in the last two years. I'm back up to where I used to be. I believe in myself again and it's a great feeling."
Hingis, the winner here in 1997, 1999 and 2000, was seeded top in a star-studded field of the $1.224 million event, which included Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia and former number one Monica Seles of the United States.
After receiving a first-round bye, she will take on either Rika Fujiwara of Japan or Marlene Weingartner of Germany before facing a probable quarterfinal opponent from Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, seventh seed.
Also in the top half with Hingis were fourth seed Sandrine Testud of France and fifth seed Silvia Farina of Italy.
Dokic and Seles have a tougher road in the bottom half with Sydney Olympics silver medallist Elena Dementieva of Russia, sixth seed, Amanda Coetzer of South Africa, eighth seed, and Russian pin-up girl Anna Kournikova.
It will be the first tournament for Dokic, second seed, who captured her first career title at the Italian Open in May 2001 and added two more by winning in Tokyo and Moscow.
Seles, third seed, who missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2001 because of a foot injury, hopes to avenge her 6-4, 1-6, 4-6 loss to Hingis in the semifinals at Melbourne.
"I've been playing well since I came back from my foot injury. I've been consistent, that's why I've been playing a lot better," said Seles, who will play Japan's ace Ai Sugiyama or a qualifier in the second round.
Jan 27th, 2002, 09:45 PM
"She wanted it more
and that's why she will be the more potent force and greater rival to Venus
Williams in 2002. "
I totally disagree. Obviously Jen wanted it badly enough to fight off matchpoints, but the reason Hingis choked on them was because she wanted it too much not because she didn't want it enough.
Jan 27th, 2002, 09:50 PM
Speaking as a fan of Venus Williams since she was a little girl with a racket bigger than she was, I have to disagree with one thing the author wrote. He writes
It would be hard to envisage a fit Venus or Serena Williams struggling in such a fashion.
I'm sorry, it's quite easy to imagine Serena struggling like that. When she's off, she struggles quite visibly.
Venus, OTOH, might struggle, but she wouldn't let us see it.
It was 46 degrees on the court. The truly amazing thing is that Jenn expended the enrgy for a first set comeback, came up short, and didn't quit down 4-0 in the second. I can't imagine a player being unaffected by it.
Jan 27th, 2002, 10:01 PM
I have seen Venus and Serena, both healthy and stuggling with unforced errors. It would be very easy for me to imagine either one struggling under the same conditions.
Jan 28th, 2002, 03:39 AM
TO EACH IT'S OWN.
Jan 28th, 2002, 05:33 AM
How much calculation goes into playing tennis? I'm sick of this brain brain brain stuff. If she's so brainy she should win all four slams.
Jan 29th, 2002, 09:55 PM
I really hope Venus also shows up in Dubai. I would have thunk Martina would return to defend her title and ride that camel. Oh well, no Venus & Martina final. I think Venus will take it all, and pay Monica back if she plays her.
Good luck to them all.
Kournikova confirms for Dubai WTA event
Gulf News; Jan 29, 2002
BY A CORRESPONDENT
Anna Kournikova, one of the most photographed women in sports, will compete in the Dubai Tennis Championships, tournament owner and organiser Dubai Duty Free has confirmed.
The glamorous Russian, who rose to number eight in the world rankings in 2001, will join a star cast that includes Wimbledon champion Venus Williams and nine-time Grand Slam winner Monica Seles.
Kournikova is as well known for her film star looks as her tennis and has graced magazine covers around the world.
Commenting on her decision to accept a Wild Card to play in Dubai, Colm McLoughlin, Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free, said: "Anna is very much in demand by tournaments on the Sanex WTA Tour. It is a reflection of the high reputation the Dubai Tennis Championships has among players that Anna has elected to add the event to her crowded calendar.
"Anna has attracted a new legion of fans to the game, and we are confident that along with Venus and Monica, her presence in Dubai will draw record numbers of fans to Dubai Tennis Stadium."
Kournikova was outstanding as a junior, being ranked world number one in 1995, and at the tender age of 14 she became the youngest player ever to compete in the Federation Cup, helping Russia to a 3-0 win over Sweden.
She was voted Most Impressive Newcomer in 1996, and in 1999 she received the Doubles Team of the Year Award with reigning Dubai champion Martina Hingis, with whom she won this year's Australian Open Doubles title in Melbourne, her second with the Swiss star.
Kournikova was also one of only two athletes to make the People magazine "50 Most Beautiful People" list in 1998.
Although her ranking tumbled after she was forced to miss most of last year through a stress fracture in her left foot, she is clearly back to her winning ways. In addition to claiming the Australian Open doubles crown, she reached the semi-finals in Auckland earlier in January.
The Dubai Tennis Championships, comprising the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open back-to-back with the Dubai Duty Free Men's Open, runs from February 18 to March 3 and is held under the patronage of General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.
World Reporter All Material Subject to Copyright
Jan 29th, 2002, 10:02 PM
Sorry to the poster that orginally posted the last article on this thread. I'll make sure I check the board first next time.
Jan 29th, 2002, 10:09 PM
Hope this one's not posted. Fingers crossed.
TORAY PAN PACIFIC: Hingis in fine form but shouldn't expect cakewalk
By MELANIE LANG, Asahi Shimbun News Service
Monica Seles and Jelena Dokic will be tough for the Swiss star to beat in her quest for her 4th Tokyo title.
With two of the top three seeds at the all-women's 2002 Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament withdrawing before they've even hit a ball, second seed Martina Hingis must be thanking her lucky stars.
Top seed and world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport of the United States pulled out with a niggling knee injury, while compatriot third seed Serena Williams has is still nursing a sprained ankle, clearing the way for world No. 4 Hingis to claim the $124,000 (150million yen) event for the fourth time in five years. Hingis has been in sparkling form since she returned to the court late last year following surgery for torn ankle ligaments, and she is looking forward to reclaiming the title she won in 1997, 1999 and 2000.
America's comeback queen, world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati, who ousted Hingis to retain her Australian Open title Saturday, and the other half of the dynamic Williams duo, world No. 3 Venus, did not enter the event, leaving seventh seed Yugoslav Jelena Dokic, Hingis' closest rival on paper for the title.
But while the departure of Davenport, who beat nemesis Hingis to claim the title in both 1998 and 2001, will certainly make things easier for the 21-year-old former world No.1, Hingis is unlikely to have it all her own way.
With the recent Australian Open, where the men's seeds dropped like flies, still fresh in everyone's mind, Hingis knows only too well she's no shoo-in.
Although on paper, Dokic, playing in the event for the first time, would seem Hingis' biggest threat, the 18-year-old hasn't beaten Hingis in a head-to-head confrontation since Wimbledon 1999.
World No. 10 American stalwart Monica Seles, a nine-time Grand Slam titlist and former world No. 1, however, won the last two of their three meetings in 2001, and could well go one better than her 1999 semifinal placing.
Russian No. 1 Elena Dementieva also has the advantage of beating Hingis in their last meeting last year and could pull off a surprise, while compatriot Anna Kournikova, a semifinalist in the event last year, will have the crowd behind her as usual.
Japan No. 1 Ai Sugiyama, whose third-round exit at the hands of Slovak Janette Husarova at the Australian Open earlier this week ended all hopes of besting her 2000 quarterfinal placing, will be looking to improve on last year's quarterfinal place, while Rika Fujiwara, world ranked No. 129, can only benefit from facing world-class players, but will have her work cut out to advance past the first round.
In the doubles event, world No. 1 pairing Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs will be tough to beat, although Australian Open doubles champions Hingis and Kournikova will likely benefit from the fans' backing.
Meanwhile, with four places in the main draw still available, 32 players battled through two of the three days of qualifying matches over the weekend.
In the first round Saturday, Japan's Chisayo Ito, Shinobu Asagoe, Akiko Morigami and Saori Obata all progressed to Round 2.
In Sunday's second round, Ito put up a good fight but couldn't ward off Irina Selyutina of Kazakhstan and went out 6-3, 2-6, 1-6. Asagoe is also out of the running, losing in straight sets (6-2, 7-6) to Australian Alicia Molik.
Morigami and Obata advanced to the third round, beating Italy's Tathiana 6-3, 6-1 and Jennifer Hopkins of the United States 6-1, 7-6 respectively.