Ten performances that shook the world: Tennis - Hingis has confidence o f youth to negate Novotna's challenge

The scene was set a for a fascinating confrontation of youth and experience, laced with brilliant net play and breathtaking passing shots. Martina Hingis, only 16 and barely tested during the course of the Wimbledon championships, would have to be at her precocious best if she was to deny Jana Novotna the greatest prize in tennis.

Up in the players' guest box, two faces were studied more closely than the rest. Melanie Molitor and Hana Mandlikova, both from the Czech Republic, did their best to appear relaxed while suppressing nerves.

Molitor, Hingis's mother and coach, had named her daughter Martina after the great Navratilova, scarcely daring to dream that the day would arrive when her Slovakian-born child would triumph on the stage Navratilova had made her own.

Mandlikova was all too familiar with the Centre Court. She had lost there in two singles finals, against Chris Evert in 1981 and Navratilova in 1986. Mandlikova had also, as Novotna's coach, suffered agonies in the guest box in 1993 when her compatriot lost to Steffi Graf in the final after serving with a 4-1 lead in the deciding set.

Novotna, 28, was the sympathetic favourite of many of the spectators, her tearful episode against Graf now part of Wimbledon lore and her attacking style worthy of gold leaf acknowledgement on the roll of honour. Graf's absence after injuring a knee during the French Open contributed to the popular support for Novotna, a member of the established order attempting to fend off the head girl of a rising generation.

For all that, and the conviction that Hingis's time would come soon enough, the historical context of the Swiss prodigy's progress was irresistible. A year earlier, aged 15 years and 282 days, Hingis had become the youngest winner of a principal event at Wimbledon, partnering the Czech Helena Sukova to the women's doubles title.

Lottie Dod, the youngest singles champion, was aged 15 years and 285 days when she won the title in 1887. The Cheshire cotton-broker's daughter was only required to win three matches, including the challenge round.

Hingis, the holder of the Australian Open title and the youngest world No 1, did not encounter a seeded opponent in the top half of the draw. One of the potential dangers, Iva Majoli, the No 4 seed, at that point the only player to have beaten Hingis since the start of the year (in the final of the French Open), was eliminated before their projected meeting in the semi-finals.

Early in the contest, Novotna, the No 3 seed, threatened to dispatch Hingis with the superiority of her grass-court play, serving confidently, making deep, low approach shots and volleying with a finesse her opponent had rarely seen before.

One of the qualities which has separated Hingis from the majority of competitors, since she burst on the international scene as a 12-year-old winner of the French Open junior title, is the ability to think her way through tactical problems.

Having steadied her serve, she began to counter her opponent's movements to the net with a variety of precise groundstrokes. Novotna's strategy remained unchanged, even though she was being picked off and was feeling the effects of an abdominal strain.

Yet Novotna survived five break points in the opening game of the final set and took a 2-0 lead, only for Hingis to transform the threadbare lawn into a canvas for her boldest strokes, prevailing, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all