Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Martina's Many Moods
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Martina's Many Moods 12/15/2008 - 5:43 PM

It’s an odd time for a Martina Hingis retrospective. At the moment, our vision of her is colored—tainted—by her recent, mysteriously sudden second retirement after a positive cocaine test. Maybe these two clips will help put her back in perspective. More than with any of the other players I’ve watched on YouTube over the last two weeks, I’d forgotten what Hingis did well. Or, I should say, I’d forgotten all the different things she did well.

Aside from her re-retirement, there’s also a tendency right now to see Hingis in a negative light, as an “in-between” champion who snuck five majors in during the late 1990s, after the demise of one power era—the Graf-Seles edition—and before the rise of the next—the Williams-Williams-Davenport-Sharapova era. And that’s true. But we can also feel good, after watching her dissect her opponents in these clips, that her reign was one where variety, finesse, and instinct were allowed to flourish. Unfortunately, the second of these two videos will show that this queen was brought down not just by the bullying power of her bigger opponents, but by her own immaturity.

Above is the 1997 Wimbledon women’s final. Hingis, 17, defeated Jana Novotna, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

—Remembering how dominant Hingis was in ’97, when she won three majors and was a match away from the Grand Slam, it’s bittersweet now to think that she would win only two more, both in Australia. During the trophy ceremony, John Barrett talks about what a great, Graf-like future Hingis may have.

—Hingis was a grinder with flair. Like Nadal, her forte was accuracy—she could hit 100 straight balls in if needed—but like Federer she owned every shot and hit them all with a deceptive lack of effort.

—In these 9 minutes, she serves and volleys, hits two topspin lob winners, cracks a powerful backhand return, moves her opponent out of position with a looped forehand into the corner, uses a two-shot combination on the passing shot (just like they teach you), and wins a point with an expert drop shot and equally good lob.

—The most impressive aspect of Hingis’ strokes is their simplicity. They may be textbook, but they look unconstructed, born rather than made—of course they were the product of thousands of hours of practice, but that, paradoxically, is what allows them to be so simple. They all begin and end before you know it. That’s particularly true on her backhand side, where she absorbs all the pace of the ball coming in and sends it back with virtually no backswing.

—Novotna: weird service setup, with her racquet stuck out in front of her face.

—If I take away anything from Hingis’ technique for my own game, it’s her willingness to always get down for her strokes. She really shows that on one backhand pass here.

—Hingis’ reign of simple finesse was brief, but fans of her brand of tennis will always have her dominance of 1997 to remember.

Now it’s two years later, and the innocence is about to end. In what the winner would describe afterwards as “one of the craziest matches ever,” Hingis would implode and then serve for the match in the second set, before imploding for good in the third. Steffi Graf would walk away with her 22nd and final major title, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. Hingis would walk off the court to boos, and then return, in tears.

There are at least two full version of this match, in separate parts, on You Tube, but there are no condensed, single-clip highlights that I could find. I’ve chose part 2 of three of an ESPN Classic feed with Tony Trabert and an Aussie woman commentating (Rennae Stubs?). This one had the best quality. It covers most of the second set when Graf was turning the tables and the two had their most competitive points, but does not include the legendary meltdown moments, when Hingis crossed the net (you can find that here, though you don’t get to see Graf’s incredulous reaction) or threw in an underhand serve (find that here). I like the fact that Trabert defends that move.

—Graf-Hingis ’99 is not unlike the McEnroe-Nastase Thursday Night Massacre at the U.S. Open in 1979. Infamous for the behavior of one of the players—Hingis in this case; Nasty in that one—it also featured more than the normal allotment of entertaining, high-quality tennis, most of which has been forgotten. In this match especially, the drama of the points—up, back, slice, topspin, drop, lob, slide—matched the drama of the moment.

—As with the Novotna match, Hingis is a tennis highlight reel, hitting a swing volley winner, sneaking in for a delayed approach-and-volley winner, using the delicate drop-lob combination, defending with brilliant slides and stabs, and hitting a neat, un-textbook forehand approach winner without stopping.

—Hingis is the more complete player on this day and should have won the match. Even after multiple implosions, she managed to serve for it at 5-4 in the second set. Hingis forced Graf to try different things as the afternoon progressed. Graf got back into the match by mixing her shots up more than she normally does. She went to the drop shot and showed a lot of patience by working the points with her one-handed backhand. It was a necessity: She couldn’t blow Hingis off a clay court with her usual forehand patterns.

—Stick around for the point that begins just after the 4-minute mark.

—Knowing how this match ends, you can see that Hingis’ problems started early. Maybe she was jittery because she was playing Graf, the French fans' favorite, but even while she was cruising through the first set and a half, Hingis was unduly agitated and more adolescent than ever. It seemed at times as if she couldn't quite face winning the match, for some reason. She laughed after a Graf forehand winner; she pounded a ball into the court in the second set; she put her face against the court’s wall in exasperation even though there was another set to go; she blew her cool crossing the net, even if she was right; she baited the already angry crowd with two underhand serves; and she generally showed way too much emotion. As refined as her game was, Hingis, even after five Grand Slam titles, hadn’t matured into a champion. It caught up to her against the greatest champion of them all.

—The upside of this match is not just the play itself. It’s the sight of Graf letting her emotions out like she never had before. She’s unabashedly delighted to win one last Slam, which had been her wish. If we had to see Hingis experience this awful moment after playing playing so brilliantly, at least it gave us a chance to see Graf experience such a wonderful one after doing the same.


Posted by francis 12/15/2008 at 06:18 PM

the human highlight reel - dominique wilkins

Posted by Pierre 12/15/2008 at 06:34 PM

What Hingis did in that French Open match was never acknowledge that she was playing a very good player. You can see it in the way she was kind of goofing around and laughing after she won the first set. Whenever Graf wins a point in the second set, Hingis acts like it is some kind of fluke.

Then in the third set, she still can't come to terms with the fact that she is facing a tough competitor. Instead of buckling down and getting into the match, she gives up. To me, she is showing not emotion so much as arrogance. It's like she never clues in to what is actually happening: she is getting beaten by a better player. I wonder if she ever figured that out.

And I can't see how Hingis is a "more complete" player than Graf. Almost every one of Graf's shots is superior to Hingis', plus more importantly Graf is much faster and a much better competitor. In fact watching these two videos made me think right away what a limited player Hingis actually was.

Posted by Steve 12/15/2008 at 06:35 PM

right. call her the Nique of tennis. at least for a few years

Posted by Steve 12/15/2008 at 06:42 PM

limited in her size and athleticism, yes, but not anything else i can see

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 12/15/2008 at 06:56 PM

Stopping by to wish everyone over here happy Christmas. :)

I love these historical posts. It's strange how quickly the whole game can change in such a short period of time.

Posted by Hingisfan 12/15/2008 at 06:59 PM

Thanks for reminding everyone about Hingis. I was not a fan during her first run but absolutely loved watching her during her second WTA career. Maybe I couldn't appreciate her brilliance until after I had watched all the bashers. She really had a great second run and I miss her greatly. I hope she comes back again (I am not holding my breath) to play doubles on the WTA. I think she could play well into her 30's and be a great doubles champion.

Posted by Kenneth 12/15/2008 at 07:09 PM

She was a gifted tennis player before she was a coke user, so to me, as I would with any other sports figure caught abusing any other drug, she gets a pass from me for doing what she wants on her own time. Too bad she was caught on the WTA's time, however.

If by 'complete' you mean the ability to successfully utilize every single shot she owns, then yes Hingis is one of the most complete players ever. What would get her later, aside from the power of later champions, would be her lack of fitness. Her refusal to embrace the athletic side of tennis highlights the extent to which she would never mature, and of course that marked her as a non-entity when she would return, literally unchanged, a few years later.

It is pretty hard to 'sneak' five slams in though.

Posted by MikeDC 12/15/2008 at 07:16 PM

Thanks for this. There is a comment at around 7:45 with Trabert saying "watch it, she can't get another code violation". It's kind of funny because it's out of context, but knowing how the match played out... no shocker.

As for Hingis, I was also not a fan during run #1, but agree that her accomplishments were underappreciated. I remember watching her demolish Seles at Indian Wells or Miami I believe and being amazed at how she actually dominated (rather than just wait for errors) through her timing and placement. Her level of play in 97 seemed higher than it was in subsequent years. I wonder if her decline wasn't a combination of both increased power AND Hingis dropping off a bit in foot speed, confidence, and consistency.

Any chance of clips from her 99 US Open matches against Venus and then Serena? Combined they show a great tale of how great she was, and why it sometimes was not enough.

Posted by Pspace 12/15/2008 at 07:57 PM

Regardless of her legacy, I still miss her :(. That RG final is one painful memory, along with the Wimby 2008 final. Pity I'll never be able to watch these matches again.

Thanks for this one Steve.

Posted by skip1515 12/15/2008 at 08:03 PM

1. If everyone else uses 78% of the square footage on a tennis court, Hingis used 93%.

2. Hingis had tremendous economy of movement. That efficiency didn't translate into the fleetness that Graf had in spades, however. Watching these clips, I don't think it'd be right to call Hingis *quick*. She did control the center of the court, though.

3. Novotna: as manufactured a player as you're likely to find at the top echelons of the game. Very little seemed natural about her game, except her movement.

4. I'd say that was Rennae Stubbs. In the first clip it's Our Virginia.

5. Watching Hingis after having watched the recording of Ashe v Orantes at the Pepsi Grand Slam Cup on Tennis Channel, Hingis strikes me as something of a throwback to the European players of an earlier generation. It's all racquet head at the last minute, little power from the body (as deception and accuracy is the name of their game), and a serve that gets the point started.

6. As with all of these clips, highlight reels don't lie, but liars can mash up highlight reels.

Posted by Master Ace 12/15/2008 at 08:11 PM

In the first clip after Martina won with pure genius, it was interesting to see Martina let Jana hold the Venus Rosewater Dish for a minute only to win it for herself in 1998. That career performance by Majoli at the French kept Martina from a calendar (and career)Slam in 1997.

Posted by Master Ace 12/15/2008 at 08:30 PM

At the French Open in 1999, Steffi used her guile to win the match after Martina dominated the first set and a half with her genius but I agree that Martina never matured as a champion and in this particular match, it cost her a chance to win a Career Slam. Little did we know at that time, that would be the last time she would be in the final at the French Open.

Posted by SwissMaestro 12/15/2008 at 09:05 PM


To me, Hingis resembled more the kind of game that Andy Murray has (even more than Nadal's), she would not give her opponent 2 balls that looked the same. Maybe a premature frustrated genius that never fulfilled her potential. I miss her incredibly.

Posted by Pierre 12/15/2008 at 09:14 PM

OK, just checking back on the completeness issue.

Hingis was a good player, sure. But there is no way she was a more complete player than Graf, even on that day.

Let’s look at Graf’s weakest shot, her backhand. Hingis is unable to break that shot down. In fact in a lot of rallies it is Hingis who can’t handle Graf’s backhand.

It is kind of a cliché to say that Hingis was pushed out of the game by more powerful players. In truth, she had pretty even head-to-heads against players like Davenport and the Williams sisters.

But Graf’s head-to-head against Hingis was 7-2, and Graf was much older than Hingis. Graf was no ball basher, although she hit the ball hard. She was just a better overall player than Hingis.

I think that French Open final was more about Graf putting in a gutsy performance on a day when she wasn’t playing with her “A” game.

( And one more thing. I would like to request a moratorium on the idea that Graf hit her forehand “late.” (Which you repeated in one of your earlier posts on Graf.) I don’t know where that notion came from, someone probably said it back in the early eighties and people just kept repeating it. She was always prepared on the forehand side, she hit the shot any direction she wanted, and most importantly she hit the ball very cleanly. She may have contacted the ball a bit farther back than some players, but that is not the same as hitting “late.” “Late” means you don’t get your swing where you want it in time, and you fail to hit a solid shot or control the direction of the shot. And Graf definitely did not have that problem.)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/15/2008 at 09:32 PM

I miss Martina Hingis' game more now than ever. As skip1515 pointed out, she used more of the court than any player before or after. And she made the lob a thing of potent beauty.

I'm mostly struck, though, by her stroke efficiency, which begins with her footwork. She shuufles her feet constantly, taking up to 6 or 8 little adjustment steps after getting to the ball before executing a seemingly effortless stroke. Her posture is perfect, her shoulders level and her head still throughout. If I were to name any player "Baby Federer" it would be Hingis, despite the fact that she predates him.

But Graf has that extra gear that only the very greatest champions possess. I found it interesting that she seemed to take all of Hingis' distractions -- even the coming across the net bit -- with good humor. Perhaps that helped keep her loose as the match was headed to the wire.

Regarding the underhanded serve that Hingis tried to sneak in, I agree wholeheartedly with Tony Trabert's take on it. That said, it's obvious that Hingis was feeling defeated at that point, and especially impotent with her serve. But it doesn't change the fact that a well-disguised, well-timed, and well struck underhanded serve can be a very useful weapon, particularly on the red dirt and on the grass. And notice how easily Hingis flicks that thing, as if she were softly sending a shuttlecock softly over the backyard net. Perhaps the reason we don't see it more often is that it's really a ballsy play, one which requires perfect execution or else one wears egg all over on's face.

Novotna was one of my favorites, as well. So like Edberg in her style of play, or Mandlikova, but so much more like Rosewall in the way her strokes seemed learned from reading books on correct and proper tennis technique. But talk about agility and pure athleticim. And that forehand slice/chiop return -- exquisite. Why don't more pros use this great shot? You can cut it severely short and cross court, or push it deep up the line, with hardly any forewarning. Best of all, it stays low so that you can seize the net (well, there you have it -- it used to stay low on the grass that was prevalent back in the day).

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/15/2008 at 09:35 PM

SwissMaestro - I can see a little bit of Hingis in Murray, to be sure.

Pierre - I'm not sure I'd be too quick in calling Graf's backhand her "weakest shot."

Posted by skip1515 12/15/2008 at 09:44 PM

Pierre does have a point about the notion that Graf's forehand was perennially late. Rather, it was (perhaps) the last of the continental forehands, and as such was hit next to the body and not as far in front as with Eastern, semi or western forehands.

Continental forehands. RIP.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/15/2008 at 10:15 PM

I'me very sorry to hear you say that, skip.
The continental grip is the most versatile.
It has its limits, but none can do so much.

Posted by 12/16/2008 at 12:14 AM

Steve, you really think crossing the net was legitimate? It's always been a non-no for me, even if the other guy is cheating (which Steffi most definitely was not).
I also seem to remember Hingis sucking air in that third set. Her fitness and match toughness were never her strongest suits, and Steffi really worked the court.
Also, I'd appreciate it if we could skip the Capriati stint.

Posted by Ro'ee 12/16/2008 at 12:15 AM

Steve, you really think crossing the net was legitimate? It's always been a non-no for me, even if the other guy is cheating (which Steffi most definitely was not).
I also seem to remember Hingis sucking air in that third set. Her fitness and match toughness were never her strongest suits, and Steffi really worked the court.
Also, I'd appreciate it if we could skip the Capriati stint.

Posted by Ro'ee 12/16/2008 at 12:26 AM

Oh, and Martina's attitude during that match always reminded me of the scene in Princess Bride where Inigo is stabbed by the count and the count says "Good heavens, are you still trying to win?".
She just couldn't take Graf's challenge seriously. Which is weird, considering Graf was 6-2 ahead in the H2H b4 the match.

Posted by Eric 12/16/2008 at 03:20 AM

Pierre, nice comment about the cliche that Graf hit her forehand late. Absoultely agree. Semantics, really.

Posted by skip1515 12/16/2008 at 06:29 AM

Oh, I meant to mention this story, which I think is great. Perhaps Hingis was a bit over the top, but it's still pretty funny:

Early on in her career she was close to Davenport. The coin was flipped for serve at a final in California (San Francisco?). Hingis won. She asked Davenport,

"Do you want to be receive or be broken?"

Posted by S 12/16/2008 at 06:58 AM

The female commentator is Liz Smylie.

Posted by Carbon 12/16/2008 at 07:59 AM

You got to love those one-eyed Graf supporters. Graf saw the mark. But she wanted to win, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Hingis has always been different. She's always played to her own beat, and its cost her more times than not. She's stubborn to a fault, and it cost her a lot the ability to reach greater heights.

I like Graf, I like her determination, the emotion she showed was very nice in the 99 French Open. I adore her forehand, admire that slice backhand, and wince at her reluctance to come to net more often. And I think its wonderful, that she's finally enjoying herself, as she often looked so stressed out, I was often stressed watching her, especially against the likes of Seles.

I like Hingis, she's personality plus, I enjoy watching her play more than Graf, simply because its a joy to watch that kind of court coverage, and variety of strokes. I don't understand her at all, in terms of her decisions about her career, let alone her 'many moods'. I miss her, she was so much more interesting as a player and personality than the PR-perfect lot we have today.

One thing for sure, we won't see a match like the 99 French Open maybe ever again, it takes two champions with such different views of the world, and how tennis should be played, to cause that kind of high sporting drama.

Posted by Ryan 12/16/2008 at 08:04 AM

Steve. I am obviously very pleased that you've chosen to focus on Martina next. She might still be my favorite player ever. The only I've already watched every YouTube clip of her there is to see! :P

Posted by Ryan 12/16/2008 at 08:14 AM

I think the biggest thing that strikes me about Hingis's strokes is the combination of accuracy and deception. Not only are her strokes geared to be able to redirect the ball to any part of the court at any moment, but she's able to time it just so, so that you can't tell which way the ball is going until the moment she strikes it. This is a product of her incredibly soft hands, probably the best the women's game has ever seen.

Posted by linex 12/16/2008 at 08:46 AM

Hingis just a genius. As Swiss Maestro says the player that comes closer to her is not a woman but a man and that is Andy Murray, although as I always say Hingis executed her shots with more style.

Posted by 12/16/2008 at 09:08 AM

Anyone who doesn't recognize that Graf hits her forehand late doesn't really understand tennis.

Posted by Ryan 12/16/2008 at 09:18 AM

If Hingis is similar to any male player, more than anyone else, it's Marcelo Rios.

Posted by ChrisAmerica 12/16/2008 at 09:29 AM

Evert v Navratilova, Graf v Seles, Graf v Hingis.....these are three matchups that will ignite passion and discussion all over the galaxy.....That French Open final of 1999 was sweet for Graf in that she got the chance to shutdown Hingis on a big stage especially after all of the rude and tasteless remarks that Hings had made in interviews when Steffi was on the comeback trail in late 1998.

Thanks Steffi!

Posted by unknown 12/16/2008 at 09:39 AM

Dominique Wilkins. Such a cutie. *sigh*

Posted by Master Ace 12/16/2008 at 09:57 AM

Noitced that fellow posters compared Steffi to Roger, Monica to Rafael, and now Martina H to Andy M. Why do you believe that is the case? It is the way they are striking the ball, use of the court, or etc...? Why are the past WTA players not compared to today's WTA players? Could it be that some players today do what some people call "ball bashing" (due to increased technology) and not developing a tactical game.

Posted by Ryan 12/16/2008 at 10:16 AM

Hmmm...Monica is more of an Andre to me. Short, punishing strokes, constant barrage of power, great with angles. Except Monica was better in the clutch.

Posted by Steve 12/16/2008 at 10:22 AM

i did say "late" about graf's forehand, but that's not the same as "too late." it's hardly an insult

i didn't think hingis crossing the net was ok, ro'ee. i thought the underhand serve was.

master ace, those comparisons probably combine attitude, strokes, ways of constructing points, and the dynamics of particular matchups. graf may not be exactly like federer; seles may not be exactly like nadal. but graf vs. seles did remind me of federer vs. nadal.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/16/2008 at 11:10 AM

I agree with you on this subtle difference, STeve, although I also think that the real reason that Graf's contact point on her forehand side is "late" is that she was using the continental grip and in order to generate the maximum power particularly on balls above her ribs, she needed to let the ball come in deeper/closer. The alternative would have been to slice the high forehand, a la Novotna, which Graf apparently preferred not to do, presumably preferring a flatter ball or one with moderate topspin to penetrate the court.

Posted by Blake 12/16/2008 at 11:18 AM

Hingis' underhanded serve may have been within the rules, but it was extremely unprofessional. Since it occurred at match point, I took it to be an attempt at "cheapening" Graf's winning moment.

Posted by AJByTheBay 12/16/2008 at 11:30 AM

I sooo thought this was a Martina Navratilova post on her ever-changing moods when I first clicked. You could say the same thing about both Martinas though- aggressive, mood swingy, amazing accuracy...Cough...Both had problems with handling Steffi...Cough-Cough...

Posted by AJByTheBay 12/16/2008 at 11:35 AM

Oh, and - I love Ginny! (Who doesn't? ;)

Posted by Pierre 12/16/2008 at 11:46 AM

Coming to you from the Dead Horse Dept. :]

Here are some pictures of Graf hitting her forehand. Two things you can see: i) the grip looks pretty Eastern.

ii) it is remarkable how she gets into the exact same contact position every time she hits a forehand, right down to the fingers on her left hand and the direction of the pony tail toss.

Posted by Pierre 12/16/2008 at 11:47 AM

and here are two more chopped here to avoid the spam filter:

Posted by Pierre 12/16/2008 at 11:47 AM

Posted by Ryan 12/16/2008 at 11:55 AM

Ha Pierre--even the way she tucks her left thumb!

Posted by Master Ace 12/16/2008 at 12:17 PM

Thanks for the explanation especially about the particular matchup.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/16/2008 at 12:45 PM


I couldnt disagree more with your 11:18am comment.

In fact, Hingis' underhand serve was really nothing less than a raising of the white flag in surrender -- at least mentally.

Furthermore, as both Steve Tigbor and Tony Trabert correctly pointed out, there is nothing in the rules to prevent or prohibit a player from employing an underhand serve, provided that the ball leaves one's tossing hand, much as in table tennis (aka ping pong).

I'd go much farther, though, and assert that against certain opponents, at certain times in a match, in certain conditions, and on certain surfaces, it may be a smart (and even successful) play, if executed well and with the appropriate seriousness that the occasion commands.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/16/2008 at 12:50 PM

Pierre, nice work finding those photos of Steffi, particularly that last on with the bird of prey.

However, just as with her serve (and Becker's, for that matter) the terms eastern and continental may not apply exactly.

I use a continental grip almost exclusively, and when I hit my forehand it looks a lot like Graf's, except that I believe my arm is not bent quite so much. I'd be willing to bet that her grip falls directly between the eastern and continental.

Posted by ole boy 12/16/2008 at 12:57 PM

steffi tucked in her left thumb like that because she played her service games with an extra ball in her left hand up until the 1991 australian open.

Posted by ole boy 12/16/2008 at 12:59 PM

steffi tucked in her left thumb like that because she played her service games with an extra ball in her left hand up until the 1991 australian open.

Posted by andy 12/16/2008 at 01:25 PM

It's great to see the comments about two great Campions/players like Steffi and Martina. But, no body talks about the burn out Hingis faced. She played phenomenonanl tennis as a teeanger. She was in to Tennis much earlier than she should have been. With age some maturity comes. I think it is the mistake of WTA and her Mom at the time to let her play too many matches.

Hope the upcomer Wozinacki (the one to be watched for in 2009)learns and fares well.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/16/2008 at 01:32 PM

You're right, Andy. HIngis was the top junior in the world at 12, I believe. But considering her stature, or relative lack of it at 5'5" tops, she matured earlier than the larger babes and was ready for the big-time earlier. By the age of 22, she had played nearly 10 years on the international scene.

Hingis was truly, as I recall it, a tennis prodicy and phenom.

Posted by Blake 12/16/2008 at 01:43 PM

@Slice-n-Dice: I'm definitely not arguing the fairness of the underhanded serve. Michael Chang, of course, employed it during his French Open match with Ivan Lendl. At the time, it was his only plausible alternative as he was badly cramping.

Hingis had gone off the boil mentally, I agree. For that reason, the underhanded serve seemed like a trick shot used only to bewilder Graf and stall the inevitable result. At that point in the match, I'm not sure that much cognitive thought or sound strategy was involved on Hingis' part. Under extreme circumstances, yes, the underhanded serve is effective, if only for a spare point or two. It's just my opinion that, in this case, it was poor form.

Posted by Master Ace 12/16/2008 at 02:12 PM

Good point about Martina and why she was worn out at a point when she should have been peaking. Jennifer Cap also went through this stage starting her career early. Think Caroline W will learn from this and the WTA has age restrictions now. Also, I think Caroline Wozniacki will be the next WTA superstar in 2-3 years.

Posted by andy 12/16/2008 at 04:22 PM

Does anyone remember the match between Martina and Steffi in 1996 Championships? A memorable five setter. At the age of 16, Martina gave fits to Steffi. It was sucha great match, didn't now who root for?

I liked Martina, but loved Steffi's game. I miss both of them, dearly.

Posted by crazyone 12/16/2008 at 08:32 PM

Was Martina Hingis the best lobber on both tours? Of the players I've seen, I'd say yes.

Posted by singh2322 12/16/2008 at 10:20 PM

I find it hard to believe that someone could play the pro tour as recently as 1999 and still manage to be #1 with just a 70-80 mph serve. Watching tennis today I still feel that the real competition in the women's draw starts in the QF of a grand slam and most of the top 10 barely have any work to do... my point is Martina had a great run when there was no serious contender on the women's tour... in whose absence whatever was left of the field was really shallow. She certainly did not have the METAL of a champion though she sis have the shot playbook of one.

Posted by rg.nadal 12/16/2008 at 11:32 PM

I was jubliant that Graf won the title in 99, but felt sorry for Hingis too. Pity that she could not win the FO, a title i initially thought she would win on multiple occasions.

Posted by athan 12/17/2008 at 12:13 AM

Same with one poster - a have seen almost all Hingis clips. My favorites are her victories over Serena Williams (Aussie 01) and Maria Sharapova (Tokyo 06) and how she wrong-footed them constantly with her placements, change of pace, depth, angle and guile.

My goodness, shouldn't we all rejoice that one such woman player came to our conciousness and graced our ball-bashing, one-dimensional tennis world with her brand of artful and intelligent play?


When I was starting to play (at age 31!!!!) I thought I could prosper with hitting the ball very hard and outpowering my opponents. But Later I realized I am no PRO to acquire all those powers and strength (gym, gym,gym). Then i saw Hingis and Federer and realized there's another way to play tennis and win and it's about placements and depth and angles.

Now, i am winning more and though I still try to power my way sometimes, I can now choose between hard and soft shots and thanks to players like Hingis , Federer , Agassi and Murray. They gave me more hope inside the courts.

Posted by athan 12/17/2008 at 12:34 AM

... and may I add.

She only not possess one of the best lob's.

She also has the greateast drop shot of all time.

..two of the most underused shots in women's tennis today.

Pity that the WTA tennis lost both Hingis and Henin at ages they could still be playing competetively.

It's like the Tech World losing both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the same time.

or Holllywood losing both Jenifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.

What are we to do without these two beautiful players????

Jelena.... please win some slams....

Posted by chad 12/17/2008 at 05:17 AM

i started playing tennis at age 11 and i was a big guga and williams sisters fan . at first i hated martina hingis i thought she was arrogant and her game sucked. but later with the rise of all these big hitters i came to appreciate her game. it was unlike anything that i was seeing on tv at the time. martina´s game is way out in left field. its in a class of its own. i can say now that martina is my favorite player . i appreciate her mental tennis a lot. i watch her matches for ideas on the court. i think in 1997 she won not only bc she was mentally strong but i really dont think anyone knew quite how to play her. i try to practice footwork and specialty shots like the drop shot and lob like her. to me there is no other player like her. shes in a class of her own.

Posted by athan 12/17/2008 at 08:59 AM

Agree with you. I started usijng drop shot because of her.

I also noticed one of the young girls training on our club starting to use angled loop back hand cross courts to send her opponent wide. That young girl used to bang all balls and when she was moved to another coach I observed some changes.

Now she has more variety and more options.

I just hope more WTA tennis players use some more tactics instead of relying only on power.

Posted by MMT 12/17/2008 at 05:24 PM

Pierre - your first post of the thread was spot on in all ways except for one: when Steve refers to Hingis as a more complete player, I think what he really means to say (if I may be so bold) is that Hingis was a more resourceful player. Not able to rely on brute force in her tool kit, Hingis had to find more creative ways to win points in general - drop shots, sneak attacks, S&V from time to time, great angles, gutsy flat shots up the line. You don't see that AT ALL in the women's game today. It's all about power, and while Graf was more resourceful than most women who attempt to emulate her today, she was far less so than Hingis, in my opinion, because she didn't have to be. Why bother dinking it, when you can belt it cross court 3 times over the short part of the net and elicit an error, a weak shot, or set up a winner?

But mentally, you hit the nail on the head. Her reaction to losing the second set says it all - she just can't believe this old lady is even making a match of it, let alone in with a chance to win. And that, in the end, was the difference on the day. If you watch Graf play Seles in the latter's heyday, she really never figured out how to beat her. They both hit hard, but Seles hit harder and found better angles, and Graf just couldn't chase EVERYTHING down, and eventually would lose out due to her lack of options.

Hingis on the other hand tries everything, up to and including under-handed serves, but in the end Graf's mental toughness, her fitness and her technique won on the day.

Good for her! Well, not like she need another slam, but good for her anyway!

Posted by MMT 12/17/2008 at 05:25 PM

And one more thing - I just can't understand how Novotna ever won Wimbledon - those have got to be some of the ugliest strokes in the history of tennis. YUCK!

Posted by tsong 12/17/2008 at 06:38 PM

Hingis -- The Epitome of Hubris

Posted by ogno 12/17/2008 at 06:45 PM

it has to be emphasized that Hingis deserved the boos and the jeers. She brought the opprobrium on herself, for her unprecedented fit of petulance while she was leading, 6-4, 3-1 ...

petulant while leading? unheard of in the history of tennis

read that again ..."while she was leading..."

she deserved no sympathies from 18,000 Parisians.

Posted by nost 12/17/2008 at 06:51 PM

i agree really, if you have a puffball serve at 80 mph

you don't deserve to be World No.1

go back to the practice courts, and make more drills

Hingis was really lucky to "squeak in" a few Slams

"squeak" is the exact word, as Graf had multiple injuries in 1997-98

and Monica Seles was not up to the task.

In that sense, Seles was a greater disappointment than Hingis.

Posted by athan 12/17/2008 at 08:22 PM

I don't think Hingis is lucky. She is one of the greatest tactician and player - but not the most powerful. and this is where the edge of the other players come in.

The racquet technology favors power and bashing and Hingis brand of play was not complemented but rather pushed out by the racquet technology.

So can I say the power players are the lucky ones because of Science?

Posted by Markic 12/18/2008 at 08:03 AM

tsong hits the nail on the head: Hingis won it all too soon, and didn't put in the effort to refine her already almost perfect game. Definitely the best lob and drop shot I've ever seen on either tour.

People can call her success an interregnum, but if she'd worked harder, it could have lasted a lot longer. The sense of the bigger picture on court, as in seeing all the options, started to hurt her career when she was old enough to apply that to her life off court.

Posted by Paul 12/18/2008 at 08:35 AM

I haven't scoured the thread, but from the looks of it, it seems that no one has mentioned this: I find Graf's victory incredibly deserving after Hingis made the comments about Graf in 1998: "She is old now. Her time has passed."

Posted by john smith 12/18/2008 at 07:08 PM

In that RG math it is Hingis who looks like 30 years old. She might be talented and a great tactitian but she was unable to run even at age of 17. Look no further for a reason why she never won another GS.

If tennis was about playing still then she would be one of the all times greats but since it is about running and reaching balls, getting older doesn´t help you improve the mobility. Plus, she was powerless, subpar competitor and disrespectful. 5 GS was too much for her in my opinion.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 12/19/2008 at 12:47 AM

johnsmith, 7:08:

Total Nonsense.

Hingis covered the court very well, as anybody who knows anything about tennis will tell you.


Ranked No. 1 for 209 weeks and having made 12 Grand Slam finals, the fact that Hingis won Five of these finals might be considered surprisingly low.

But she won Five, no more no less. So Five is exactly right.

If Hingis played tennis as well as you reason, she wouldn't have even been a mediocre club player.

Posted by Aaron L 12/19/2008 at 12:20 PM

I totally miss Martina, regardless of what people who do not appreciate her contribution to tennis say, she has made a Legend for herself. (funny thing was while she was playing in late 2003-4 she was the only player listed in the legends of the old WTA website that was still active.)

Anyway I just miss her game and the way she was so charming on court, she always smiled and the way she played the game with her brilliant court sense made tennis look so fun!! And thats why I became a dedicated super fan of tennis.

I'm not so interested in power, anyone who goes to the gym enough can do that, nor am I with textbook shots, anyone with thousands of hours can do that. What Hingis had in plain sight for all to see was her brain... she used it to maximum effect in tennis and we can see it with how she played...

I miss her consistency in winning also (Justine had that but she isn't here anymore and nobody has it now), and her consistency in playing. I just miss her!!! Hope she plays doubles! and hope Topspin 4 (if they ever make one puts Hingis in it!)

Posted by athan 12/21/2008 at 09:04 AM

Hingis-bashers are usually Graff fans who can't accept that whenever people look at the 99 Roland Garros finals it is always viewed as something which Hingis lost than Graf won.

In fact, Graf knows all along that Hingis' shot was good but she decided to play her fanatical nature. Had it been Nadal or Roddick or even Serena William, she would have given the point of contention.

Now who is the immature one???? One who acted on her emotions or one who acted on her fanatical desire to win at all cost? even at the cost of INTEGRITY????

Boo to Graf.

Posted by pamela 12/22/2008 at 05:19 AM


“Aside from singles and women’s doubles, next time I will play mixed doubles, but I have to give someone else a chance to win an event."

January 20, 1997, Melbourne Australia

Puffball-Serve Hingis: The Epitome of Hubris

Posted by solid35player 12/22/2008 at 09:47 AM

Hubris indeed. As a fan and rec player I can appreciate Hingis' court smarts and variety, but I could never respect her because she never seemed to show respect to her opponents. OK, I really did not like her because she showed disdain for her fellow tour players. Imagine, assuming you should beat Graf, one of the greatest of all time. You darn well better work for that.

I also buy that she peaked during a weak time in the WTA's history. Ultimately her ego cost her. She never seemed willing to add to her game to adjust to new challenges. But why bother when you're obviously the greatest player in history, right?

Posted by athan 12/23/2008 at 12:52 AM

I love the way she talks so honestly about herself and her opponents.

Nowadays the presscon contents are decided by the marketing boards of Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Wilson, PRince, Babolat.

These CEO's had their time and their riches.

Please don;t allow them to take away the spontaneity of the athletes and the tennis world in general.

(Now, I hear Djokovic is being tamed by his agents and sponsors)

Sad, so sad.

Go Hingis!!!!

Posted by tsong 12/24/2008 at 07:55 AM


"Yes she's (GRAF) had some results in the past but she's old now. It's a different game now, it's faster and more athletic than when she played. She's a cow that has been put to pasture."


Who else... only Hingis: The Epitome of Hubris!

May 1999, Paris, 2 two weeks before she was spanked by the cow

Posted by Carl 12/26/2008 at 03:24 PM

It's obvoius that this thread's full of "fanatical" Graf fans. Yes, Hingis has a more complete game than Graf for the reason that at age 17 - 19, Hingis can always find ways to end points at the net. Graf had always relied on baseline winners. And for the record, it was Graf who was rude to Hingis first. When Hingis was just 15 at Wimbledon, Graf refused to have a picture taken with Hingis before their 1st round match. Further, in 1996, when as a 15 year old Hingis beats Graf in 3 sets at a clay court tournament, Graf declared, "this has got to be the worst match that I've every played in my career!". Graf has always been disdainful of hingis for Hingis was a genius at a much younger age. Also, Graf has a commanding head to head lead over Hingis because most of those matches were played when Hingis game hasn't matured yet. If Hingis had only ignored the incorrect line call (which Graf took greedily) she was on her way to a straight set victory. She had already exploited Graf's one dimensional game earlier that year in Tokyo (indoors) in which the surface should have favored Graf. And even in that '99 Tokyo match, Graf, again, (after the Hingis loss) offered the excuse, "Well, I had a tough 3 setter against Elena Likhotseva and it was very difficult to recover from that). Graf was lucky that her fan stabbed Seles. She can no longer compete with Seles at the 1993 Aussie, In fact, she only won Wimbledon 1992 because Seles was concentrating hard on not grunting. And for the record, during the fortnight of that 1992 Wimbledon final, Graf was qouted as saying that, "If need be, I might complain to the chair umpire", that's re: Seles grunting.

Posted by tsong 12/27/2008 at 03:26 AM


You are fanatical about Hingis' victory in Tokyo 1999... 6-4 in the 3rd set, that's hardly a demolition but a case of luck.

Graf had surgeries in February 1997, June 1997, and then again in early 1998

but Graf beat "World No. 1" Hingis 6-0 in the 3rd set in Philadelphia, October 1998.

Read that again, 6-0. That's why Hingis was so insecure about Graf going into RG'99 final.

Hingis has complete game?

What non-sense!!! She couldn't even retrieve Graf's dropshots.

Her petulant behavior in Paris despite the thorough discussion among the lineswoman, chair umpire, tournament referee, and tournament director ruined Hingis career.

She would have been banned from Roland Garros for all eternity.

All the mainstream media -- AP, AFP, ESPN, BBC, New York Times etc -- had no sympathies for Hingis' performance.

Posted by Rodak 12/28/2008 at 04:37 AM

MNT, Novotna won Wimbledon by serving and volleying. She had one of the hardest serves of her era and she was one of the best volleyers ever. What you're seeing in that clip is Novotna's B game. She totally dominated Hingis in the first set and then pulled an abdominal muscle. She couldn't serve as effectively, so she stayed back and played cat and mouse with Hingis. I'm not sure why Steve didn't say anything positive about Novotna's play; that clip shows some awesome points from both players. Novotna had amazing touch and was a veteran player who knew all the angles at that point. A healthy Novotna straight-setted Hingis in the semis the following year.

Also, I'm not sure why people keep referring to Graf's play against Hingis as one-dimensional ball-bashing. Stragetically, she was every bit Hingis' match that day. Great drop shots (on the forehand and backhand side), great lobs, great placement on the backhand, and she anticipated Hingis' shots very well. Except for Hingis losing control of her emotions, there was some terrific strategizing on both sides of the net. Such a great match.

Posted by Gordy 12/28/2008 at 05:15 AM


You must be in love with Jana Novotna and distracted by her beauty. You didn't notice that she serving and volleying on almost every point. That's not staying back. Doesn't look that injured to me.

Posted by Rodak 12/28/2008 at 05:24 AM

Gordy, yeah, she did come in a lot even in that clip. But she definitely stayed back more than she did in the first set. I remember that she played much better in the first and had the trainer out early in the second. All of her shots look pretty labored in the third, so I would still say that's her B game.

Posted by kiwibee 12/28/2008 at 10:33 PM

I think Steffi had to beat few clay court players including Monica in order to be in the final.

Posted by Preshana 12/29/2008 at 01:02 PM

Hingis attitude foreshadowed all of her accomplishments for me. Commentators never really dealt with the issue. She made ignorant comments about Mauresmo's sexually. Hingis constantly demonstrated that she couldn't handle losing. Real champions can. She quit the game because she couldn't take losing to the people she had beaten. She had the most spoiled brat melt down during the French. Steffi Graff won that match! I would like to note that she also made negative comments about her. I'm not shocked by her retirement. I'm not shocked about the cocaine. You reap what you sow.

Posted by Carl 12/29/2008 at 02:51 PM


No I'm not. Hingis' inability to chase drop shots was her lack of fitness. Her 6-0 loss in 1998 (Philly)is again fitness related.
Hingis' fault is her complacency and arrogance (in not recognizing that she needed to be more physically fit). Graf can't even come in or use that forehand to her advantage to end point sooner at the net. Hingis knew how to do that at 16! And for the record, when Graf was young, she had a lot of unsportsmanlike behavior as well. She used to not come out for post match ceremonies after getting beat! Further, she once said that (and this was on Sports Illustrated 1987, US Open), "Chris Evert is not great anymore" and "I think Martina Navratilova is afraid to play me". Even the writer of that article opined, "So what is Graf going to do if she beats Billie Jean King, denounce King's legend?". Point is, maturity is a process. All of these divas of tennis had been brash or bratty at some points in their careers. And back to the stabbing incident, Graf never once offered to protect Seles ranking when it was obvious that she was gonna benefit from it. If not for Navratilova, Seles would have been playing qualies in her comeback. Graf benefited the most from the stabbing that's for sure. Seles was no longer the same when she came back. From 1995 - 1996, Sanchez Vicario was the only "formidable" opposition as the Davenport's, Williamses & Ovas weren't fully developed yet.

Posted by Nancy J 12/29/2008 at 06:58 PM

I never liked Hingis until I saw her battle against Venus Williams in an unbelievable come back in 2006. She showed me something there -- battling a clearly more powerful player. Hingis was a great player -- even if she did sneak in between the Graf-Seles and WS eras.

But, like everyone, I can NEVER forget that 1999 French Open!!!! My GAWD, up until then I'd seen a couple of players have meltdowns (heck, I was there live at the 1982 US Open when Johnny McEnroe pulled a fit), but to see Hingis completely "implode" and lose that match the way that she did to the fans and Graf?! I remember that underhanded serve that had Johnny Mc and Chrissie Evert struggling for things ways to explain it as commentators. They were clearly baffled -- as we all were!

Hingis should have won that match! But I didn't blame the fans for turning on her, as Hingis started the rumble. Even Steffi got angry at one point when Martina was vitching with the chair umpire about the fans, and Graf asked if they were going to play tennis or what!

That match is sadly entertaining for all the wrong reasons (it's one that I have in my collection), and I wasn't even a fan of Graf's until she started dating Agassi, but I was happy that she schooled Hingis how a true champion behaves (and wins). On the other hand, I remember Chris Evert's reminder that Martina was an immature 18, and it had to be hard for her to draw the hate of fans as she did on that day.

Fast forward to the cocaine use accusations... I wish Hingis happier times in her non tennis life. But I would NOT be surprised to read one day of something tragic about Hingis.

Posted by Nancy J 12/29/2008 at 07:12 PM

As great as Steffi was, as Jimmy Connors says, "the past is the past," and Graf was 30 years old with a bum knee when she played that 1999 FO final. Sure, Stef had pulled out some incredible wins prior to the final, but Hingis was on top of Stef until she lost the mental game! Bum knee and other injuries or not, one can NEVER anger a champion such as Graf, turn the fans into nearly a lynch mob, and then expect to win. Hingis set herself up for heartbreak. That win for Steffi was more about Hingis' negative issues than Graf.

Posted by 12/31/2008 at 06:34 AM

Hingis uses certain drugs and has a long series of broken relationships -- Justin Gimelstob, Julian Alonso, Ivo Heuberger, Magnus Norma, sergio garcia, radek stepanek, etc.

She's likely to implode again.

Posted by athan 12/31/2008 at 11:40 AM

Graf can vie for the Greatest Women's Tennis Player of All Time.

But she can never vie for the title " Greatest Tennis Genius of All Time."

Hingis can.

Sorry Graf Fanatics.

Posted by Budour 01/03/2009 at 05:53 AM

God, how have I missed Martina!

Posted by Naa 01/03/2009 at 11:05 AM

Sometimes some people make a lot of ignorant remarks.

firstly, i don't know how hingis could have 'sneaked' in 5 grand slams (and by the way, that's just a small part of her accomplishments).

secondly, some people's ignorant assession that martina flourished at a time that the 'competition' was weak should check their facts. below are her head-to-head records against the so-called power hitters:

martina has a 15-5 record against seles
martina has an 11-10 record against venus
martina has a 6-7 record against serena
martina has an 11-14 record against davenport
martina has a 7-7 record against mauresmoe
martina has a 10-2 record against amanda coetzer
martina has a 1-2 record against sharapova, etc.

In between these players and other greats of her time and now, I can't imagine how martina could have 'sneaked' in 5 single GS and 9 double grand slams not to talk of 43 single tier titles, 38 double tier titles, 2 ITF titles and 1 mixed GS title. Her playing style was unparalleled. She was just a remarkable tennis player.

Thirdly, it's unbelievable that some people would attribute her first retirement to 'fear' of the so-called power players. Before people make such stupid remarks, they should take the time to check the facts. with the advent of technology, such information is out there for all to access. i have already given some of the head-to-head records against the power players above. Before hingis retired in 2003, she had two ankle ligament surgeries in 2001 and 2002 respectively. this is completely understandable for someone who had been playing continuously (all matches including every single & double tier events and GS) for 8 years since 1994. her retirement was just due to burn-out, pure and simple and not a so-called 'fear' of some players.

I know some people complained about her attitude, etc. can these people who are quick to jump on hingis, name me one tennis player who has not had an attitude problem at one time or the other (probably with the exception of nadal-who is even acussed by some people of being too humble-a paradox). it comes with tennis and the fact that these players rise to fame so early. i don't know why martina hingis would be singled out and made to look like hers was so extra-ordinary. One of the good attributes about martina that people don't know and which is lacking in today's tennis players is that she acknowledged (good) competition. she was able, after each match, to give an accurate analysis of her opponent's game and why she thought she won or lost a game. (people who are interested should visit her domain at tennis quickfound where a breakdown is given of all her matches).

Again, I'm surprised at the way people are quick to believe that martina is guilty of taking cocaine. but then again, depending on where we are standing, we see things differently. Does it make sense that someone who used 'brains' over brawn would choose to take cocaine to 'enhance' her performance? and more so at a time when she had everything to prove and everything to lose(she was on her second come-back and not at the top of her game)? i don't think so. she had too much pride to stoop that low and i absolutely believe her when she said that 'she would be personally horrified of taking drugs'. her style of play simply did not make room for drugs of any sort. also, what about all the tests that had been carried out on her from 1994 to 2002 when she was still playing at a high level? none came back positive. so i rather choose to believe her and give her the benefit of the doubt that hingis would not involve herself in drugs of any sort. it's simply at odds with who she is. she had a hair sample test which came back negative so let not some people be too quick to placement judgement on her and pronounce her guilty.

On her come-back, which spunned from january, 2006 to november 2007, contrary to some opinions i believe her come-back was suceessful although she spent a better part of 2007 nursing various leg, hip and back injuries. on her return, she won 3 single tier titles, 1 double tier title and 1 mixed GS title and she was in the QF of two of the GS in 2006. this is a great achievement for any player considering that she did not play for three years.

Admittedly, hingis is the reason i came to love tennis so forgive me if i'm a little biased. she is just a remarkable player and so under-appreciated and under-acknowledged. her matches were such a delight to watch. her finesse on court and her mental prowess is simply unmatched. i don't want to get into the graf-hingis issue. both have paid their dues to tennis and deserve mention among the tennis greats. hingis's game was just so different from graf it's unfair to put the two to any comparison. whiles graf has accomplished 'everything' in tennis, for pure tennis artistry i would pick martina hingis over graf (and for that matter anybody else) any day. she was that good. i think tennis really miss players like her, what with all the massive specimens dominating the tour lately with their one-dimensional power-ball-bashing styles. she brought so much to the game. any body who 'knows' tennis will acknowledge that.

Finally, as someone accurately wrote, her inability to have adapted her 'almost-perfect' style to the changing face of the women's game ultimately shortened her stay on the tour. had she been able to add 'power (strength)' to her game like henin did (and i'm no henin fan), she would have been a force to reckon with for a long time. also, on her return she was short on confidence which had been an integral part of who she was before her first retirement so she was never able to really get to top flight although she did remarkably well rising to no. 6 in the world.

all that said, hingis has done what she could: 5 SGS, 9 DGS, 1MGS, 43 single tier titles, 38 double tier tiles and 2 ITF titles. it certainly may not have been enough with all the talent she was gifted with but it's certainly enough to place her among the tennis greats. absolutely.

i love you martina hingis and i'm a true fan. i wish you well in all your endeavours now and in the future....bye...

Posted by tsong 01/05/2009 at 12:38 AM

Naa: you talk too much

Graf-Hingis. 7-2

No comparison.


Posted by Naa 01/05/2009 at 10:51 AM

TSONG: Probably u were reading my post upside down. Otherwise u would have noticed very clearly that I was more interested in Hingis as a tennis player than any comparison with Graf (or any other player for that matter)

Hingis was a remarkable player and not even u can deny that.

Posted by Al 01/10/2009 at 09:07 PM

Naa @ 11:05 AM.
Great post.

Posted by JULIUS T. LADARAN 01/16/2009 at 11:26 AM


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