Hingis keeps on the straight and narrow

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The Independent Online
Martina Hingis is approaching the big fork in the road. One option will take the 15-year-old to the promised land of tennis celebrity, the route charted from teenager to successful adult by Steffi Graf. The other offers a less scenic pathway, a road that is bordered by the premature retirement home in which Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger inhabit the dormitory and one from which Jennifer Capriati seems to have crashed. On yesterday's evidence, Hingis seems to have got her bearings right.

It is not easy to grow up in tennis, but the girl from Switzerland seems to have a better chance than most. Her mother, Melanie, a former player, and her coach are in the same bed every night (they are one and the same person), and she understands the pressure of the circuit.

Hingis seems to possess the temperamental equipment. As she eased to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Jana Nejedly, the most extreme in behaviour we witnessed was rueful looks and the occasional gentle bounce of racket head on turf. There are signs of youth on Hingis's forehead but little in her game. She was too consistent for her opponent yesterday and ended the match on an experimental level, coming to the net with much greater frequency. That facility, plus an improvement on her first serve, will be required if she is to beat the person she is scheduled to meet in the fourth round, one Steffi Graf.

Hingis has already beaten Graf this year, however, in the Italian Open, where the German's thoughts seemed to be on courts other than the ones she has made her name on. Subsequent events have shown, though, that the No 1's mind is no longer locked away with her father in a single cell of the prison at Mannheim.

Team Hingis always has the Capriati example to keep them on their toes. There are those who fear the American's career is over at the age of 20 as she appears to be putting more effort into her encounters with Florida night-club waitresses than anyone she meets on a tennis court.

Capriati was brought before us amid publicity fireworks as the new Chris Evert, and Hingis also carries with her the onerous link with a great from yesteryear, as her first name might suggest. There was a wobble at the Lipton championship earlier this year when Hingis said she was getting bored with practising. She subsequently started to play more doubles to keep her mind occupied, a sort of junior basket weaving exercise.

The Hingis people understand that adolescent giddiness is an uncorkable genie and are prepared to give the young girl some rein. Her mother gave Martina the opportunity to go back to school recently, but the teenager decided hers was not such a bad life after all.

The all-British encounter between Rachel Viollet and Megan Miller transpired to be a battle of the wild cards with white caps. We say British even though both women have spent much of their lives in Florida, which led to the suspiciously Transatlantic accents on Court 10 yesterday. Both have world rankings that represent a pretty useful first innings.

Viollet is the daughter of Dennis, the former Manchester United striker (well, inside-forward in his day actually). She collects freckles, which she keeps on her face, and has developed a serving action with which Jo Durie ended her career. Miller grunts like Seles, plays double-handers like her and even seems to have gone to the trouble of having plastic surgery in the image of the No 2 seed. Sadly, that is where the resemblance ends and she allowed her opponent to collect a fluctuating match, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

Viollet now meets Hingis in the second round. After that, Hingis will play someone else.

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