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Friday, January 27, 2006

Martina Hingis

For the past two weeks, I've been staying up way too late so I could watch the Australian Open tennis tournament. You may have noticed that I posted once recently at 4:30 am. Yes, I was actually watching tennis at the time. Every major tennis tournament contains many little stories that fascinate me. This year was no exception.

Martina Hingis retired almost four years ago at the ripe old age of 21. She'd been battling foot and ankle injuries and I'm also guessing that she felt like the game had passed her by. She's always been a finesse player and her style took her to number one in the rankings when she was just 16 years old. Before she bowed out of the game in 2002, she'd won 40 tournaments, including five majors. But that was before the power game took over women's tennis. The question everybody was wondering when she decided to come back a few weeks ago was—could she compete with the big hitters?

She entered the Australian Open as a wildcard (somebody who doesn't have enough accumulated points or a high enough ranking to qualify, but the host country decides to allow to play anyway), even though she'd won the tournament three times in the past. She played Vera Zvonareva, the 30-seed, in the opening round and beat her. Then, she played Emma Laine in the second round and demolished her. Next was Iveta Benesova, the woman who knocked out the number 5-seed Mary Pierce—and Martina beat her too. And that's when people started buzzing. She was fit, striking the ball well, smiling, and for the first time, she appeared to be at peace on the court.

In the fourth round, she faced Samantha Stosur, an Australian hometown favorite, and Martina beat her in straight sets. She went from being unranked to earning a spot in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, she faced Kim Clijsters, the number 2-seed and new number one player in the world, and Martina lost an epic battle in three sets. I don't know how far Martina Hingis will go in her comeback and I don't know how long she will last, but it is so much fun watching a player who seems to appreciate the opportunity to play the game that she loves.  


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