Women's Game Has Undergone Incredible Changes at the Top

By Young, Josh | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 1997 | Go to article overview

Women's Game Has Undergone Incredible Changes at the Top


Young, Josh, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It was a late-arriving crowd at the U.S. Open for an early arriving era already in progress. Almost as quickly as the weather here has shifted from hot, humid summer to cool, breezy fall, the pecking order of women's tennis has changed.

Yesterday was a banner day for the new women's tennis. Last night when spectators wearing blue blazers over their polar fleeces to ward off the chill finally found their seats in the new Arthur Ashe Stadium, they saw new No. 1 Martina Hingis wipe the court with former No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-3, 6-2 in 62 minutes.

Earlier, No. 6 Lindsay Davenport, never better than a quarterfinalist at any Grand Slam event, reached the semifinals by overcoming No. 3 Jana Novotna 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) in 2 1/2 hours.

Basically, Hingis and Davenport will play for the title in the semifinals tomorrow. The last time they played, Aug. 9 in the semifinals in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Davenport handed Hingis one of her two 1997 losses.

In the other semifinal here, novelty act Venus Williams plays No. 11 Irina Spirlea.

A nice twist for trivia purposes is that Hingis and Sanchez Vicario play Davenport and Novotna in the doubles semifinals today. (In case you need to attach meaning, this says that women's tennis has no depth. Singles players don't exhaust enough energy in the early rounds, so they play doubles to pick up a little extra cash and some practice, too. To compare, only one of the men's singles quarterfinalists made it that far in doubles.)

Hingis, 16, is the flamboyance in women's tennis these days, which says more about the women's tour than it does about the Swiss miss. Her idols are wild-man skier Alberto Tomba and crazy-man hoopster Dennis Rodman, and she named her horse Sorrento after an American pizza joint she found in the yellow pages. Still, she doesn't instill excitement in the demanding New York crowd like defending champion Steffi Graf did.

The fans - 21,739 of them last night - seemed ambivalent toward Hingis' precision tennis. Against Sanchez Vicario, she played so effortlessly she seemed not to be trying at times. One on point in the second set, Hingis literally skipped to a short ball and then whipped an angled forehand crosscourt for a winner, as if she was playing one of the ball kids. She made it look so easy, few seemed to appreciate the shot.

When Sanchez Vicario was told that she was wearing a "nobody can beat this person" look on her face, the veteran Spaniard quipped, "I cannot see my face." She apparently didn't see many of Hingis' forehands either. …

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