Martina Hingis, serving up a WTT ‘W.’ (TSF image)
Hingis, circa 1997: There was a point tonight when I sat in the bleachers at the Sportimes’ World Team Tennis match on Randall’s Island just outside of Manhattan and thought: Oops, Martina Hingis really has lost it. That was in the middle of Hingis and partner Travis Parrott‘s mixed doubles loss to the St. Louis Aces, putting New York down 10-15 as Hingis headed into the women’s singles bout.
And then Martina Hingis proved me wrong.
If you’ve never been to a WTT tie before, they can be up-and-down affairs. Sets are played to five games, not six, and scoring is a no-ad system, meaning if the game goes to three-three in points (we might call that “Deuce”), it’s a receiver’s choice point that decides the game. Hingis had to win all five of her game to give New York even a tie against the Aces. | TSF Vault: Martina Hingis
Which is exactly what she did. Taking the court against Maria Sanchez (nope, not Caroline Sanchez. Maria. Yeah, we had never heard of her, either … ) Hingis rolled out four straight games, causing the St. Louis team to sub in doubles expert Liezel Huber in a last-ditch effort to save the match. Huber couldn’t do it and it was game and match to Hingis, 5-0. Team score? 15-15.
That meant the ladies would play a first-to-seven-point tie-breaker, sudden death. If the match reached 6-all, it was down to a final point. After some awkward (and nervous) play from both, the ladies locked in at 6-all. Surprise!
Let me just say for a second that this is exactly when you think Martina Hingis might buckle. She hasn’t played competitively in years, hasn’t been in a tight Grand Slam situation in nearly a decade. And here’s Liezel who is still active on the women’s doubles circuit getting her to 6-6 in a tiebreak. Eek.
But biting down on Huber’s loopy balls, Hingis attacked the way the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport did her own strokes in the early 2000′s. She came into the next and punctuated the win with a headstrong crosscourt forehand volley that was a little bit of a “Take that!” sort of finish to the whole night, which saw Huber at one point hit Hingis rather hard with a volley in mixed.
The small crowd went crazy, and TSF guesses this is just when WTT might feel a little bit like winning, say, the 1999 French Open. Or at least close to it. Especially at the age of 30.
After the match, Hingis was wearing Tonic and a smile. “I just thought, ‘I’m not missing it!’” Hingis told TSF excitedly. “I took my chance on a match point, I feel so much relief! The other girl [Sanchez] I had her figured out, but they put her in and I had to be both aggressive and patient. She played smart.”
But not as smart as you, Martina. Hey 2011, Martina’s back! And she’s brought 1997 along with her.