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Why the Swiss Miss Missed with the Media

By Tony Profumo<br />Date: 19/9/2001

In an era of teenage tennis prodigies, Martina Hingis was the most precocious of<br />them all. Winner of the French Open junior's title at age 12; the youngest winner of an<br />adult title at Wimbledon in the 20th century at 15; and at 16, the youngest number one<br />in the world in tennis history, Martina Hingis seemed tailor made to become the<br />golden girl in a sport that sorely needed new superstars. She was smart, pretty,<br /> media friendly and wildly talented to boot. What went wrong and why? There seem to<br />be several answers. The first is that Martina Hingis plays quiet tennis. In the era of big<br /> shots-- of Pete Sampras' serve, Steffi Graf's forehand, Monica Seles' savage ground<br />strokes, Martina Hingis seems to do nothing on the manner. Others serve faster, hit harder, a few even move faster around the court. Yet<br />Hingis is the one who has won the most big titles, the most matches, the most prize<br /> money in the last five years. But this is an era when big American movies feature big<br /> explosions, not deep discussions. Flash is important and Hingis doesn't play flashy<br />tennis. She dissects her opponents the way a surgeon cuts open a patient. The world we live in today is becoming a short attention span world and what the media wants to<br />see are single strokes that end the point in a flurish, not a half dozen strokes that maneuver an opponent into a position where she is bound to make a mistake.<br />Martina Hingis wins through anticipation.Martina Hingis wins through anticipation.She is the best in the world,!maybe the best<br />ever, at being where the ball is going to land.That's harder for journalists to describe<br /> than booming first serves that cross the net at 115 mph.

The second big problemn is the personna of Martina Hingis. Its a personna many<br /> have trouble understanding. Martina Hingis made her reputation on the court at a time<br />when she found self censorhip almost impossible. When asked which of two possible opponents she hoped to play in her next match, most women players would say: "They'll both be tough." They say it over and over again, because its polite. Hingis would answer, "I'd rather play (player A), because I've never lost to her and she suits my game." Martina Hingis answered questions honestly, and tennis journalists don't like those answers. While bad boys have been common place in men's tennis, outspoken women have been rare. Billie Jean King was one, but that was a long time ago. Hingis simply threw tennis reporters for a loop by saying whatever came and at times, comes into her mind.

Why does what she says in press conferences matter. Tennis reporters in general<br />spend far less time covering the tennis itself than they do covering the side show.<br />Reporters work from "story lines." They decide what aspect of the story is important<br />and then shape the story to reflect the reality. The establishment tennis press decided<br /> even before Martina Hingis that the side show was what was really imporant. The rivalries, the perceived cat fights, the animosity in the locker room all seemed like a better story than the tennis itself. Notice many tennis reports contain very little description of what happens during the match. The stories carry lots of background material on the players, they carry as many pithy quotes from the news conferences as they can, they carry the reporters own views on who is doing well and who isn't.<br />Often, they carry views on who is a good person and who isn't.But exciting passages about the play on court? Those paragraphs are few and far between. In this age of<br />advocacy journalism, facts have become cumbersome. Its easier to make mistakes<br /> when reporting facts.Opinions cannot be faulted for inaccuracy.

The Swiss Miss also made enemies because of her habit of doing things differently.<br />She smiles on court, both when doing well and sometimes even when losing a point.<br />Tennis tradition calls for players, who get more TV close ups than most actors, play<br />poker faced, showing no emotion whatsoever. While that is changing, tennis hangs<br />on to old traditions harder than almost any other sport and Hingis was viewed as arrogant,impolite, even strange for appearing to like her sport.It has taken some years to understand that she smiles most of the time when off the court, too.

Lastly, there are a whole series of problems that are harder to prove with facts, but which this professional journalist feels have contributed to tha animosity that Martina Hingis has generated. The first is that when she first rose to the the top of tennis in 1997, she did not speak very good English. She was back then and to some extent today, remains hard to understand for reporters who work only in English. But she has slowed down her speech today. In 1997 she often spoke with all the gushing of a teenager (which, of course, she was). She ran sentences and thoughts together in a<br /> manner reporters could not fathom. That she was a normal teenager interested in horses, clothes and boyfriends all ran together in her mind and her speech and that annoyed reporters used to secretive, closed off tennis players who gave away nothing.Imagine Steffi Graf saying she wished she would have won a tournament because she had her photo shoot dress all picked out.That was a sign of silliness or immodesty when Hingis said it, at least for some reporters.Others thought she was just a normal teenage girl.

There were other problems with her comments as well. Her remarks about lesbian player Amelie Mauresmo at the 1999 Australian Open were widely reported, giving some the impression that she was anti-homosexual. This does not appear to be the<br />case, but Hingis rarely backs down once she takes a stand. Her transgression of the rules of tennis that same year at the French Open also hurt her, although getting twice thrown out of tournaments for unsportsmanlike conduct during his career has not seemed to do the same kind of damage to the reputation of Andre Agassi. He was once defaulted for spitting at the chair umpire's chair. The second time,it was for swearing repeatedly at a linesman. Hingis walked around the net and pointed to the ground.

That brings up the last point. Hingis does not have what Agassi has-- US citizenship. Martina Hingis took over women's tennis in 1997, winning almost everything in sight. American tennis has not had a home grown number one player since Chris Evert and I believe the American dominated WTA tour was terrified that a hard to understand little Swiss was going to rule the roost.

It desperately wanted an American on top and therefore was not exactly unhappy when Hingis became less than a media favorite. It tried for a time to elevate Lindsay Davenport to the top, then turned to the Williams sisters as its savors. All three had something in common. They were all Americans. Hingis, while now residing part of the year in the US, has made it plain she is a European whose heart is with her horses in the mountains of Switzerland. Had that changes, had some come west like Navratilova and Seles did, all her above mentioned transgressions would probably go away.

As long as the Swiss Miss remains the Swiss Miss, as long as she speaks her mind and refuses to learn all the "politically correct" rules, as she put it at this year's US Open, she will probably remain cast as the villain in the story lines of tennis reporters.
 

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I think it's better to say what you think and not what everybody wants to hear from you!
 

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I like the article. Somehow it's so much truth in it. (Still now I do have now and then a terrible time to understand Martina even when she speaks German <img src="wink.gif" border="0"> )

Oh and the americans don't have to worrie any longer they have the top spot back. <s>Just wonder for how long</s> So they'll have enough material to fill in the empty space in the papers.
 

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What hooey! It's a bunch of excuses for her poor behavior and outdated game. It over-simplifies the other players' games who seems to be a lot more adept at always "being where the ball is going to be" than Hingis. Attributing her rudeness and arrogance to a charming "lack of self-censorship" is absurd. Parents start teaching kids "self-censorship" when they are toddlers and if someone who was already playing world class tennis before she was in her teens hasn't learned it, then there is a serious problem going on- and it indicates that she is not "smart" at all. Her remarks about Amelie WERE homophobic- and this guy is trying to whitewash them. Her remarks about other players being "too old" were offensive in any language. And as for her smiling all the time on court---gee, that must have been a long time ago. Did you see her smilig a lot this year? Did she do a lot of smiling during her US Open semi? Maybe I missed it. She looked pretty joyless to me <img src="tongue.gif" border="0"> <img src="tongue.gif" border="0">
 

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TRUE DAT infin, plus look at his last name.so you see we must stick as he said ,for our home grow.all 4 lady. venus serena lindsay jenn.that right their our's. <img src="graemlins/wavey.gif" border="0" alt="[Wavey]" />
 

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To be honest, this article demonstrated a very strong anti-American bias from the beginning. To state that Americans begrudge Hingis the no. 1 slot because she is not an American citizen is laughable. Here is a player who has not won a grand slam for two years and only made two slam finals during that time. Hingis deserved the criticism that came her way. To state otherwise is ludricious.

The article did have its strong points by discussing Hingis' style of play and her teenage tantrum years. However, I must agree with Infiniti that the author attempts to gloss over Hingis' horrible remarks concerning Jana Novatna and Amelia Mauresmo are deeply troubling. Hingis' remarks did not display a lack of self censorship, but ignorance about the world around her and specifically a lack of knowledge in dealing with other people. Her remarks demonstrated a lack of self-confidence which caused her to attack others who were "different" from her. In these cases, Mauresmo's open homosexuality and Novatna's age were enough to set Hingis off. The fact that the journalist could not recognize this is truly sad.

Personally, I believe that the last two years have been a time of growth for Hingis. She seems to have matured and hopefully, she will make it back to the court in fine fashion. Temper tantrums and social faux pas aside, Hingis is a fine player and for that alone, she deserves some respect.
 

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I have never read a bigger load of BS in my life.

Excuses, excuses, excuses.....

Talk about over analysing someone!

Martina is just Martina oh and god forbid she enjoys her tennis LMAO!!

This is the stupidest paragraph - one of many but the best

The Swiss Miss also made enemies because of her habit of doing things differently.<br />She smiles on court, both when doing well and sometimes even when losing a point.<br />Tennis tradition calls for players, who get more TV close ups than most actors, play<br />poker faced, showing no emotion whatsoever. While that is changing, tennis hangs<br />on to old traditions harder than almost any other sport and Hingis was viewed as arrogant,impolite, even strange for appearing to like her sport.It has taken some years to understand that she smiles most of the time when off the court, too.

<img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0"> <img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0"> <img src="eek.gif" border="0">
 

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I think this reporter is quilty of all the transgressions he accuses the tennis media of making.

This is a big fat fluff piece! Provides no insight into her lack of ability to win against a very talented field, if she had this laser precision, this chestmaster's ability to to move her opponents into a losing position...where did it go? Is her current slump due to a depletion of this afore mentioned skill or is due to the quality of the opponents she now faces? Nor does this article speak to what demons she carries which makes her blurt out this rude and crass comments. How does he know that she really isn't the homophobe that her comments about Amelie painted her to be...he certianly didn't share his insight with us.
 

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Davenport is #1 right now with no Grand Slam titles in almost 2 years and not even a Grand Slam final in the last 52 weeks. Yet the media was silent about this fact when reporting her latest ranking ascension.

On the other hand, Hingis' Grand Slam " 2-year drought" was routinely harped all the time while she was #1 over the past year or so. Double standards.

The bias Hingis' faces as a non-American is very real. Hingis is to the Williams sisters in the U.S. media what Martina Navratilova was to Chris Evert back in the day. Someone's got to play the villain.

[ November 09, 2001: Message edited by: Zummi ]</p>
 

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Trust Zummi to cut str8 to the point, and bring up the best observation of the whole thread..

<br />he is completely correct - how many times did we read about Hingis' grand slam drought..and I didnt read much about Davenports own drought!!!

Martina Mark I was the villain during the 80's, its now Martina mark II's turn...

Being american does have its advantages..
 

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Zummi and Czechfan have hit the nail on this excellent article! I totally agree with what the writer had to say.

That's the whole point (to those who didn't see it!) or didn't want to see it <img src="graemlins/firey.gif" border="0" alt="[Fiery]" /> There is a media bias.

This situation was also too true for Monica Seles before 1993. Let's face it she was also painted as a villain. Here was this Yugoslav-born girl who played the most unorthodox tennis and completely ruling tennis. Of course the stabbing and not to mention the US citizenship changed a lot of that. But at that time US womens' tennis was in a slump, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was little if any attention on womens tennis <img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0"> Well there was Capriati the great american hope, but Seles almost always whipped her <img src="eek.gif" border="0">

I think it has a lot to do with endorsements too and the players' popularity within the country etc...

It will be interesting how to media responds when the likes of Henin and Clijsters start to improve even further. I cannot wait! IMO they will never appeal to the American crowds like the Williams or Davenports or Capriatis <img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0">
 

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Whoops, this was just an example of some hypocrisy shown by some of our countrymen.<br />Not to say that I'm ashamed of them.I accept them <br />as well some of the more sensible people.

As one poster above ,put it, the truth basically lies in the above article.Those who didnt see it or rarther didn't want to see it,as they rarther not see the player they hate in some good light,ignored what the article really tried to say.So be it.

Some of you seem to describe her game as a useless and outdated game.As the reporter himself said,it's tough to analyse what really lies behind the game of tennis.It's much easier to categorise a player having big serves and powerful shots as having a "great" game,not to say that it's not a good form of the game.But Hingis's game is different from almost all players in the game.<br />She cleverly places the ball in such a spot that the opponent makes a mistake. This is a very special ability which very few players possess.<br />Again,a person who does not understand the minute technicalities of the game,will naturally slot the game to be "ordinary".<br />A person questioned on as to why to she loses to power players despite this special ability.

It is because ,placing the ball on court at the right spot requires a couple of shots.While power players using their huge serves and powerful strokes,finish of the points very quickly.<br />I dont mean to offend anyone,but frankly,only a person who has a huge grasp over the game,perhaps an experienced pro-player can understand what a great talent she is.
 

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Excellent article. Quite courageous too.
 

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Well said Deftman. It's clear that many if not most of Hingis' critics do not themselves play any tennis or do not understand the complexity of the game. I would kill to have her complete game. Tennis is such a unique sport, and that she has mastered such a variety of shots is utterly amazing to me. It takes nothing to just bash the hell out of the ball.

<br />
Originally posted by deftman:<br /><strong>....I dont mean to offend anyone,but frankly,only a person who has a huge grasp over the game,perhaps an experienced pro-player can understand what a great talent she is.</strong><hr></blockquote>
 

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I hardly think that Hingis is cast as a villian by the American media because she is a non-American. I remember when Hingis dominanted tennis back in 97-98. The American media was falling over themselves to compliment this great new talent who also happened to be very pretty, mature and intelligent. I really think the tide turned by Hingis' 1999 meltdown at the Oz and French Opens. Martina never truly apologized for her behavior and I think the media holds a grudge against her for that. In other words, her past behavior not her citizenship may play a role here.

No one doubts Martina's talent. Even fans and media who do not like Hingis personally are astounded that she has had such a long grand slam drought. Her performance in slams this year, with the exception of the OZ, has been terrible. At the FO, Wimbledon, and the US Open, Martina played some terrible tennis when she faced a top player. Martina also failed to capture a tier 1 event this year and her drought in both areas has led not only to criticism of Hingis, but also criticism of the ranking system. Remember, Capriati ascended to no. 1 four weeks ago and faced enormous criticism for not having won a tournament since May and for her on the court attitude. The fact that Davenport has not been criticized is more to the fact that she is well-liked by the media rather than her American citizenship.
 

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There has always been a bias here in America towards non-American #1's-male and female. Whenever the American media have written "tennis is in decline" it's been when a non-American was on top(think Lendl,Kuerten, Navratilova,Graf, Seles). Is it any coincidence that the famous Sports Illustrated issue "Is tennis Dying?" came when Lendl and Navartilova were the 2 #1's? I doubt it.

If "A-Rod" takes over as #1 from Guga, I'm sure writers here will suddenly discover a new interest in men's tennis.
 

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Another interesting point raised in the article is about her citizenship.<br />Well talking about bad behaviour,Agassi himself has been suspended from tournaments twice,not to mention numerous occasions when he has come to his stand,broken all his racquets,and at time has abused the umpire.<br />Yet he is always seen in good light among the media.Imagine a French player doing the same on American courts.Would he ever be seen in the same light that Agassi is seen in here?<br />Never.

The fact is that reporters "do" excuse misbehaviour of thier own coutrymen.Rarther they try to justify it.But unfortunately people who are not from the country do not have that cushion.<br />Take for example Venus,who was chanting "I will be No.1",in most of her press conferences ,right from 1997 to 1999.<br />No doubt that she is the best player of this generation ,and the No.1 spot is inevitable.She was just being honest wasnt she?<br />But if Hingis says "I will beat player X tommorow"<br />even if it is inevitable,it has often been termed as "impolite".

Whether you like it or not,Hingis is just honest. She does not believe in the so called "image" that players or for that matter we all try to maintain.<br />People like Billie Jean King and Mohammad Ali,have been "admired" for being brutally honest.<br />Even if they were at times wrong,their guts were always appreciated.<br />So the fact remains :-<br />Is Hingis "outspoken"?YES<br />Is Hingis "bad"? NO!!<br />There are many players who are be breeding much more negative thoughts,than that of Hingis.Yet the choose to be hypocritical and praise the players they hate.While this girl speaks out any thought,good or bad that comes to her mind.<br />That's the difference.Whether you like it or not.
 

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The article suggests that the American media is xenophobic against the non-Americans they villify. My-my, so the Taliban aren't the only people in the world with anti-American feelings. Gee. Why is that so? I thought only people in the Middle East hated Americans. Or are they the only ones brave (or foolish) enough to express it.

Hingis herself has said she felt she had to prove herself more in the US than in any other country. So I think the article wasn't too far off-base with its accusations of her unfair treatment in the media. You don't usually get those sorts of feelings from spectators and fans alone.

It seems as though Martina Hingis must have a lot of power to be able to upset the American media in such a way that they feel compelled to give her a hard time. If she didn't matter, she wouldn't even be worth the paper she's printed on. Apparently, she does matter. A lot.

Wayward comments about some players and walking around a net post, and Martina's blamed for World War III. Andre Agassi? He can spit, swear, say nasty things about tennis establishments, and make derogatory comments to tennis officials. Yet he's "as happy as a ****** in a submarine." Martina isn't allowed to be No. 1 without a Grand Slam title to her name, but Lindsay can because she's just that much better.

[ November 09, 2001: Message edited by: Braveheart ]</p>
 

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And regarding the all famous "half-man" comments.Yes she did mistake Mauresmo to be trans-sexual,while she was actually lesbian. <br />How does this in "any" way,show that she was homophobic??<br />If she were homophobic,would she have played doubles with Jana Novotna nearly for 1 and half years?

She knows that she has been "named" after a homosexual,and is proud of it.I think to conclude that she is a homophobic is "absolutely" ridiculous!
 
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