martina's masterful night

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.

players manage balancing act while prepping for nyc’s big show

Kim Clijsters threw out the first pitch after meeting the Mets team in Queens on Friday in New York. A day earlier, she was the USTA’s guest of honor at the draw ceremony (AP photo via Yahoo! Sports).

RalphLauren.com pulled out all the stops on Thursday afternoon for an event featuring Venus Williams, in which Venus took questions from online submissions from around the world in a live clinic. At the Sportime Randall’s Island tennis center in New York, Venus was on court for the first time in a public setting since her eyebrow-raising loss to Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. But instead of thwacking errors and a look of confusion, Venus was all smiles and tennis knowledge in the clinic, which was hosted by the British TV personality (and former player) Annabel Croft.

Venus, who is the no. 3 seed at the US Open and one of the favorites though she hasn’t been on tour in two months, talked fitness, forehands and gave plenty of tennis tips from her 26 years of experience on the court. The event was hosted by Ralph Lauren and Mercedes Benz, based on RL’s homepage for viewers to log in and watch live while Venus answered questions relayed by Croft. (Watch a full replay of the clinic here or click on the image after the jump.)

“It’s good for me to remember the basics when I’m about to play a big tournament,” Venus said, referring to the Open. Venus partnered with Ralph Lauren in the design of the dress she wore, a white number emblazoned with the logo of Eleven, Venus’s clothing line.

Guests were greeted with sweet mint tea, pistachio ice cream sandwiches and caramelized popcorn on the upper deck at Randall’s Island, which hosts the New York Sportimes during the World Team Tennis seasons. Male models clad in red Ralph Lauren polos dished out the goods as Venus strode through the crowd on her way to hair and make up (this was a live, online clinic, after all).

The clinic was a part of a myriad of events happening in New York this week, which all lead up to the big show at Flushing Meadows starting on Monday.

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venus, ralph lauren make eleven (brand) babies + macy’s appearance

Venus Williams is teaming up with Polo Ralph Lauren to put on the Legends Clinic tomorrow on Randall’s Island, an affair that will feature interactive instruction (streamed live on RalphLauren.com) and a limited-edition dress in partnership with Williams’ apparel brand Eleven to be worn by the champion during the clinic.

TSF will be there to strut our tennis stuff (or just gawk at V herself) and check out the Eleven/Ralph Lauren offspring first hand. Submit your questions for Venus via this link and she just may answer them live tomorrow.

See Venus: Tomorrow night in NYC, at the Herald Square Macy’s when Venus herself will be on the 2nd floor (the men’s department of all places!) at 6 PM. More details are here, including how you can score awesome Venus/tennis stuff with Macy’s purchases.

Two more Venus shots after the cut. [Read more...]