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Aussies Call their island nation Oz, and we all know that teenage girls arrive in Oz by tornado. In the case of Australian Open champion Martina Hingis, the twister conveying her touched down and kept on twisting.
For two weeks Hingis capered around Melbourne, and nothing could subdue her—not heat, brushfire or the pestilence of first-week upsets that felled six of the top seven women's seeds. The 16-year-old fourth seed from Switzerland went in-line skating along the banks of the Yarra River and in the parking lot behind the National Tennis Centre. She dropped some of her new wealth in the city's boutiques. She went riding and fell unharmed from her horse, a mare named (of course) Magic Girl.
At 6:45 p.m. last Thursday, Hingis was still on court with Natasha Zvereva, finishing off Gigi Fernandez and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, the world's No. 1 doubles team, in the semifinals. Over the next 70 minutes Hingis took a shower, got a massage and grabbed a bite at her hotel. As she and Melanie Molitor—her mother, coach and roommate—sprinted the block to the Regent Theatre to catch the 8 p.m. curtain of Sunset Boulevard, a photographer in pursuit tripped, fell and wound up with a mouthful of Melbourne macadam.
If all this makes it seem that tennis was incidental to Hingis, it was. She didn't so much win her first Grand Slam singles title as toss it off. She never dropped a set in the fortnight, and she needed only 59 minutes to be done with Mary Pierce in the final last Saturday, 6-2, 6-2, to become the youngest female winner at a major since 1887, when 15-year-old Charlotte (Lottie) Dod won Wimbledon.
Lottie Dod, lah-dee-dah. "It's just another record for me," Hingis said after being asked if the achievement meant anything to her. "I mean, I have so many records already."
When Hingis and her mother arrived in-Australia for the Sydney International right after New Year's, Molitor didn't believe Hingis was in condition to win a Grand Slam tournament. They had spent Christmas with Molitor's mother in Rožnov, in the Czech Republic, where temperatures were in the single digits and Hingis had little chance to train. "I'm ready," Hingis insisted after she won in Sydney.
"Then show me," Molitor reportedly said.
Matter-of-fact exchanges like that are commonplace between this mother and daughter. At the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., last March, after Hingis lost her second-round match to a player with a triple-digit ranking, Nana Miyagi of Japan, Molitor told Hingis she wasn't working hard enough. Hingis responded by saying she found practice boring.
"It's either tennis or school," her mother told her. "Choose now."
The difference between Molitor and the proverbial Tennis Parent from Hell is that she gives her daughter choices. Hingis and her mother are determined to avoid the troubles of two other players with omnipresent parents, Pierce and Jennifer Capriati. Pierce's career was sidetracked by an abusive relationship with her coach and father, and Capriati's by a lack of motivation and a drug arrest. "We're not going to make the same mistakes," Hingis says. "In every family there are sometimes problems. Especially because she's my coach and my mother, sometimes I'm against what she wants me to do. But right now we have a great relationship."