June 1, 1997 in Sports

Hingis Turns Teen Showdown Into 42 Minutes Of Child’s Play

Associated Press
 
Tags:tennis

It could have been the finals of a juniors tournament when 16-year-old Martina Hingis and 15-year-old Anna Kournikova took center court Saturday at Roland Garros.

But this was the third round of the French Open, and when Hingis had finished dismantling her erstwhile junior rival, 6-1, 6-3, it was clear just how wide the gap is.

For the top-ranked Hingis, as for several other top seeds, it was a day of calm after the storm.

Just a day earlier, havoc reigned with three favorites - including No. 1 Pete Sampras - knocked out of the draw. But on Saturday, a few top players barely had to break a sweat.

Michael Chang didn’t even have to finish his match. The American, at No. 2 the highest seed left after Sampras’ exit, was ahead 6-1, 5-2 when his opponent, Stephane Simian of France, retired with an injury.

On the women’s side, Monica Seles, the No. 3 seed, routed France’s Nathalie Tauziat, 6-0, 6-1. Tauziat didn’t hold serve once.

And Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the sixth-seeded former champion, swept past Dominique van Roost of Belgium 6-0, 6-3.

But three men’s seeds didn’t survive: Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, No. 6; Albert Costa of Spain, No. 11; and Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, No. 13, who withdrew with a twisted ankle.

The marquee match of the day was between Hingis and Kournikova. The two know each other well, having battled twice in the juniors. Kournikova lost both of those matches.

But as the blonde, braided Russian had said, that was the juniors, and that was a long time ago - especially when you’re 15. Expectations were higher for this match.

They didn’t last long. The first set took 17 minutes, as Hingis broke her opponent twice. Both players hit hard, deep groundstrokes and went for the corners. But it was Hingis who was more consistent.

She also played smarter, wrong-footing her opponent and using the occasional well-placed drop shot.

In the second set, Kournikova played a little better. She broke Hingis late in the set for 3-5, but Hingis broke right back, and won the match on a netted Kournikova backhand. The whole thing took 42 minutes.

It was quite a contrast with Hingis’ previous match, in which she barely survived a challenge from the world’s 75th-ranked player, Gloria Pizzichini of Italy.

Hingis had 43 unforced errors in that three-set match - 20 in the second set alone. In Saturday’s two sets she had 13.

“I said I was going to be harder to beat every day.” Hingis said later. “I needed that match two days ago.

“Today I just played smarter, much more concentrated.”

Kournikova, No. 47 in the world, still doesn’t play a full schedule because of a rule intended to reduce pressures on young players like Jennifer Capriati, who had to undergo treatment in her late teen years for alcohol and drug abuse.

She made clear Saturday that she thinks it hurts her.

“I have much more pressure on me because I can’t play as much as I want, learn, get experience the way Martina can,” said Kournikova, who lives and trains in Florida.

In other top action Saturday:

Rising star Marcelo Rios of Chile, seeded seventh, saved five set points in the first set, including four in the tiebreaker, to defeat Arnaud Boetsch of France 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-4.

Mary Pierce, the 10th seed and one of France’s big hopes in the tourney, defeated fellow Frenchwoman Sandrine Testud 6-1, 6-3.

Krajicek, seeded sixth but not a threat on clay, lost 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Patrick Rafter.

Rafter’s Australian teammate, Mark Woodforde, upset Costa, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.

Mary Joe Fernandez, No. 12, advanced over Flora Perfetti of Italy, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). But the 14th seed, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, lost 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to Natasha Zvereva of Belarus.

xxxx FRENCH OPEN GLANCE A look at Saturday’s play, the sixth day of the French Open: Men’s winners Michael Chang (2) and Marcelo Rios (7). Women’s winners - Martina Hingis (1), Monica Seles (3), Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (6), Mary Pierce (10) and Mary Joe Fernandez (12). Quote - “If I am No. 1 in the world, I think I have the right to say when I want to play on the center court.” Hingis on why her match was rescheduled to later in the day. Notable - Hingis took the first set in 17 minutes against Anna Kournikova.

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