Work in Sports
Changing of the guard
Davenport breaks Hingis' Australian Open stranglehold
Posted: Sunday January 30, 2000 09:19 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- The words of concession Lindsay Davenport heard coming from Martina Hingis as they stood waiting for the trophy presentation meant almost as much as the silver cup itself.
"I just hate playing you," Hingis said.
Davenport had just ended Hingis' three-year stranglehold on the Australian Open, winning 6-1, 7-5 Saturday to add this Grand Slam title to the ones she won at Wimbledon last year and the U.S. Open in 1998.
Yet, those words from Hingis, so often criticized as a sore loser, confirmed to Davenport that she had done more than beat her in another big match. Davenport, the late bloomer always surrounded by high-powered prodigies, now was a player that others feared.
"It's pretty rare to hear her say that," Davenport said. "She's so confident and so good. That's the best compliment you could ever get."
A blowout turned into a dazzling drama until Lindsay Davenport, stalled two excruciating points from victory, finally ended Martina Hingis' furious comeback and three-year stranglehold on the Australian Open.
Davenport stood on the brink of one of the most lopsided triumphs in Grand Slam history as she served for the match at 6-1, 5-1, 30-15, but Hingis refused to yield on a court she considered her backyard.
Hingis caught up to an overhead by Davenport as she broke to begin a four-game surge to tie the set at 5-5. But the magic ran out for the 19-year-old Swiss when Davenport swept through the next two games, breaking Hingis at love in the final game.
At 23, Davenport needs only to win the French Open to complete a rare career Grand Slam.
She won the Australian without dropping a set, though the last set very nearly slipped away.
"She showed what a fighter she is," Davenport said in accepting the trophy and $460,600 winner's check.
"I was watching the clock. I just tried to keep it over an hour," Hingis said. "At least I made that."
Just barely: one hour, five minutes.
Davenport seemed ready to end the match in a mere 45 minutes after thoroughly thrashing Hingis from baseline to net. But two points away from victory at 5-1, Davenport netted a backhand, got back to deuce with an ace, lost the next point on an overhead by Hingis, then netted a backhand on a strong return by Hingis.
Hingis then held easily to 5-3, broke Davenport once more, and evened the set when Davenport made four errors, ending the game with a backhand wide. Suddenly, Hingis looked confident and Davenport troubled.
But Davenport, who had won nine of their previous 16 matches, didn't let this one get away. Davenport produced two spectacular shots -- a bruising backhand winner down the line and a crisp volley winner on the next point -- to hold for a 6-5 lead.
Hingis then buckled, opening with a double-fault, hitting a backhand long, missing wide on an easy shot, and whacking a backhand long on a deep return by Davenport.
Davenport skipped toward the net, her arms in the air.
"Nobody is as consistent as Lindsay," Hingis said. "Probably Serena at her best, or Venus, but they are not as powerful. Lindsay is just no compromise. You get a shorter ball, bang, boom, there. It is like line, line, line. She kills your right away, no mistakes."
She will remain No. 2 behind Hingis in the next rankings, but could usurp the top spot well before the French Open in May.
"Things were really going my way," Davenport said. "I was doing so well. I was hitting all the shots I wanted to hit. I definitely tensed up (at 5-1) and she was just getting the balls back. Even though you've won Grand Slams before, you're always going to get nervous serving for it. I really should have served out."
Davenport, unhampered by her strained and wrapped left hamstring, dropped the first game of the match, then streaked through the next seven games, yielding only seven points.
"I went on a roll," she said. "It's so hard to do that against a player like Martina. I made it look easy today. You don't play that well that many times in your career. You've got to cherish it."
Hingis thought she might have had a chance to escape when she broke at 5-1.
"Anything can happen in a Grand Slam final. Surprises happen," Hingis said. "I just tried to hang in there. I felt like I still had a chance. But I got a bit too excited at 5-5. I started with a double-fault. It's almost as if I was trying too hard to win."
Hingis gave full credit to Davenport.
"She was pressuring me a lot," Hingis said. "I felt like I had to play very close to the lines and take risks. I just missed. I was very nervous playing her. I keep working on it. One day it's going to be my day. I want to beat her again."
Andre Agassi will play Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the men's final on Sunday.