|Monday, 25 June, 2007|
Martina Hingis has ruled herself out as a serious contender for the ladies' singles crown this year, after squeezing through a tough first-round match against British wildcard Naomi Cavaday.
The 1997 champion needed three sets to see off the player ranked 232 in the world and said afterwards: "After this match I don’t see myself as a contender for the title."
The Swiss 26-year-old, who sustained a left hip injury two months ago which has not yet fully healed , explained that it had been touch-and-go whether she would even take her place in the draw.
She said: “Last Tuesday my doctor said the injury was about 60% or 70% healed,” said Hingis. “But I didn’t want to miss Wimbledon, no matter what.
"Maybe it wasn’t the smartest decision. The doctor said I can’t make the injury worse or reinjure it, and that it was up to me. I only just started hitting again last Friday.
"Obviously that wasn’t the ideal preparation coming into Wimbledon, and I felt a little tender at the start of this match. Now I’m just glad I don’t have to play again for a couple of days."
At times in the match against 18-year-old Cavaday, Hingis could have been forgiven for wondering whether she had made a wise decision.
She was forced to save two match points before beating the British left-hander out on Court Two, the so-called “Graveyard of Champions”.
Hingis admitted she had known so little about her opponent before the match that she had to ask fellow players about her.
"I haven't seen her play but I knew she was a lefty. Yes, it was tough, but it’s not like it’s going to be given to you because you’re a name. I got myself together in the third set."
Cavaday, meanwhile, confessed to understandably mixed feelings about the match. “To play that champion was a great honour and the crowd was fantastic,” she grinned. “It was a big buzz.
“But I’m incredibly gutted that I didn’t take it. I had nothing to lose as a wildcard. I knew I had to raise my game to a level I’d never played at before and I managed to do that. I wasn’t nervous. I felt really comfortable.
"But it’s different at match point when it’s Hingis down the other end. I definitely found it tough mentally in the third set because she comes back at you so relentlessly.
“I was eight when she won here and I don’t really remember that, but she definitely was a big idol for me growing up. I loved the way she played and I was really happy when she came back. She brings so much to the game. She’s great.”
So now Cavaday looks ahead to playing in the junior tournament next week, while Hingis is left to reflect on a close shave.
“I was determined a first round defeat would not happen to me again at Wimbledon,” said the Swiss, who experienced one of the biggest SW19 shocks of all time in 1999 when as the world number one she lost to Jelena Dokic.
“I know this match was at the Graveyard of Champions but I’ve never lost there and I didn’t want it to happen to me. I played really well on the two match points and after that it was a pretty smooth ride. I never felt she was on top of me. It was never on my mind that I’m going to lose.”
But at 26, Hingis admits she is not the fearless girl who won here 10 years ago. She is older and also wiser. “Some days I look back on that and it does feel like 10 years ago, and sometimes not,” she said. “I look so different now. That was a great moment of course. But the older you get the more fears you have. At that age you think the whole world belongs to you, and you feel invincible. Now I’m happy still to be around, and still playing. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make you happy.”
Written by Kate Battersby