Lucky 13 for happy Hingis


Last updated at 00:05 28 June 2007

Martina Hingis

had taken 13 years

to be pushed out to

Court 13, geographically very

much the outer limits of


There is a touch of Far Pavilions

underneath the striped awning

that flanks the arena. You feel as if

you should be drinking iced

lemonade and watching a chukka

or two of elephant polo, though

tennis on grass is entirely appropriate

to the ambience.

Scroll down to read more:

Martina Hingis on court

Back in 1994, Hingis became the

youngest winner of Junior Wimbledon

at the tender age of 13

years and 276 days; this year

marks the 10th anniversary of her

sole ladies singles triumph,

again a record in precociousness.

She was just 16 years

old when she beat Jana


Yesterday she found herself

surrounded by five protective

stewards, almost

frog-marched along the tunnel

under Court 3, isolated from spectators

thronging the gangway

between Courts 7 and 8 and into

most unfamiliar surroundings.

"She's tiny," one remarked and,

indeed, she seemed dwarfed by

the tennis bag strapped over both


Hingis had come a long way and,

in tennis terms, not entirely on an

upward curve. "I never (previously)

played a match on Court

13," she confirmed. "I had to ask

the umpire where the players'

seats area was."

There had been almost panic in

her searching eyes. Tennis professionals,

especially women, find it

pretty near impossible to play a

match without being able to look

towards their corner for encouragement

at turnovers and, in

many cases, after every point.

Not that the No 9 seed needed

much in the way of outside support

against Aiko Nakamura,

whose unforced error ratio made

it something of a wonder that she

managed to win three games in a

6-1, 6-2 defeat. She had collected

precisely the same in the third

round of the Australian Open this

year, albeit the other way round.

Hingis insisted this victory was

harder to secure. If so, it was

down to the Swiss woman's own

inadequacies, especially on the

serve. Despite firing down seven

aces — a testimony to accuracy

and certainly not power — her

service always looked vulnerable.

Frankly, it bordered on the

embarrassing during the final

game in which, serving for the

match, she patted over three measuring

68mph on the IBM speed

gun and one at 67mph. No selfrespecting

wicketkeeper would

stand back to any of those.

It is this weakness which has prevented

her from converting an

impressive 'second career', as she

called it, into an exceptional one.

After three years of retirement, she

returned in 2006 to win two tournaments

and reach the last eight

at both the Australian and French

Opens. She beat all comers in all sports to receive an award for

World Comeback of the Year.

But that is a time-specific accolade.

How do you follow that?

Hingis has won again, in Tokyo,

but seems becalmed as a top 10

player, able to beat the chaff, incapable

of overcoming the finest

wheat. She can go so far and no

further. In tennis terms, she is

powerless. Recent injury has also


Not that it seems to bother

Hingis too much. "I'm in a different

position now," she said. "I really

take every match as it comes. I

just wanted to come back and

play. I was definitely hoping to

make the top 10, to participate, to

be able to play with the best."

That she has done. If she had

hoped to add to her five Grand

Slam titles — four of which came

in a 12-month period when 16 going on 17 — she has not gone


At 27, she wants to look forward.

But anniversaries inevitably turn

your head to the past.

"When you look back, wow, it's

been 10 years," she said. "I had a

wonderful career. You think you're

going to play for ever at 17. You're

like, OK, I'm going to win this and

that. When it's happening, you are

invincible. Now, I'm just really

happy to be playing still. I can be

only proud of what I have already


When she looks at the photograph

of her receiving the famous

trophy, she sees someone else.

'I was a little bit more chubby

then. As a teenager, I was growing

into a phase in which you can gain

weight. I'm definitely not proud of

the way I looked. But when I was

holding the trophy, it didn't matter.

It was just a great moment.

You have to be in better shape


'The tennis world is very fastmoving.

You have to mature early,

otherwise the media's going to eat

you alive. But tennis always gave

me everything I wanted.

'The joy on court when you win is

one thing. But family, that's a different

story. If you're happy in your

relationship there's not many

greater things. Maybe, also my

horses. They provide some great

moments. I have been very fortunate

to have great moments; I'm

looking forward to many more.'

The horses are part of her speed


"I always loved things with

speed. That's why I love skiing,

cars and horses."

Hingis must hate her serve.


Jankovic maintained the

twin Serbian challenge. Sixth

seed Ivanovic took only 19 minutes

to win the first set against

Hungary's Melinda Czink en

route to a 6-0, 7-6 victory, while

Jankovic saw off Jarmila

Gajdosova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 in

in 48 minutes.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now