Evert clone Hingis tops Sanchez Vicario As one teen triumphs, Graf routs another

September 03, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Martina Hingis stepped onto the Stadium Court at the U.S. Open yesterday and captured the fans' imagination.

Was it Hingis, the 15-year-old from Switzerland named for Martina Navratilova, giving the geometry lesson from the baseline, or was it Chris Evert all over again?

It was a question to ponder as Hingis guided her forehands down the line and constructed points the way Evert used to, using four and five shots to build her way to an acute-angled winner.

Her method worked superbly as she overcame her own emotions to beat the more experienced, No. 3 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, to move into the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

"It's my happiest moment in tennis," said Hingis, who could not stop smiling. "If you beat Arantxa Sanchez in a Grand Slam on the Center Court, it is very, very happy time."

It was the first of two matches yesterday in which the women's tour displayed its present and its future. Hingis proved up to the challenge, but things did not go as well for qualifier Anna Kournikova, who also is 15 but playing in her first Grand Slam event. Kournikova got a quick lesson in patience and humility from No. 1 seed Steffi Graf.

Graf said she still is not happy with the way she is playing, but took only 51 minutes to move into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Also advancing to the quarters were unseeded Judith Wiesner, who will play Graf, and No. 7 Jana Novotna, who will take a shot at Hingis.

What was it like in the nursery today? Graf was asked.

"Well, I guess maybe a little easier than probably everybody expected," Graf said. "I mean, she was trying a little bit maybe too much. I think especially in the first set, she made a lot of mistakes. . . . When you're 15, you try to go for a lot of shots. You have nothing to lose. I figured it would be tougher.

"But I think the good thing was that she was really upset the way she played after the match. And that's good to see. The eagerness is definitely there, so she'll make her way just based on that, I reckon."

Graf said it is good for women's tennis to have new faces, "especially since in the last few years there hasn't been that much excitement around."

However, she still seemed surprised by Hingis' victory over Sanchez Vicario, although Graf also recognizes the Evert-like qualities in Hingis' game.

"It is a very talented, intelligent game she's playing out there," Graf said. "I expected more from Arantxa, but Martina knows exactly what to do. Maybe she doesn't have that all-court game that some of us have, but she's using the court really well. She seems to know where the ball is going before it's hit and she makes you play a lot of shots that maybe you shouldn't try for."

Sanchez Vicario could not overcome her own 52 unforced errors, including 31 on her forehand.

"I had my chances in the third set," Sanchez Vicario said. "I let her come back; that was a mistake on my part. But she's a very talented player."

Sanchez Vicario's best hope came in the second set, when an overrule by the umpire upset Hingis, who then gave a vivid demonstration of the tantrums 15-year-olds are prone to.

The call, with the games even at 3-3 and Sanchez Vicario serving at deuce, denied Hingis a break-point opportunity and sent her into a funk.

After arguing with the umpire on the call, she bit her lower lip, tears of anger threatened to fall and she lost the game.

After that, her racket was in trouble. It was dropped, hurled, slammed and wheeled like a club at the net as she proceeded to drop the next four games. The lapse cost her the second set and put her at a 2-0 deficit at the start of the third.

"You know, it's very difficult," Hingis said. "It's 3-all in the second, deuce. Sometimes it makes you really angry. . . . You are not very happy if you lose a game, especially like it was, because they make a bad decision. And it is so difficult against Arantxa. If you lose a point like this, she never give a point back. . . . I'm lucky that I was able to come back."

Hingis did, however, get the point back in the third set, when the umpire again overruled the linesman, calling Sanchez Vicario's forehand out on game point. That put Hingis up, 4-3, From there, she broke Sanchez Vicario twice in the next three games to claim the match.

Match point came on a one-hand backhand winner, not an Evert forehand, but it was an intelligent shot.

"I met Chris Evert once," said Hingis. "I won the junior championships at the French and she congratulated me. She's a great person, a lady. And though I'm another time, I do sometimes play the balls a little flat. Hopefully, I play a little smart, also, and come to the net. I am especially very good on the baseline. It can be that it's a little game like [her game]."

For Hingis and women's tennis, that's not a bad thing, though yesterday Arantxa Sanchez Vicario might not have agreed.

Results, 8C

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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