Madagascan's progress puts Hingis in shade

TENNIS : A large island not noted for producing tennis talent has enjoyed an encouraging few days at the Australian Open here. No, not Britain - Madagascar.

The 17-year-old Dally Randriantefy, having become the first player from her country ever to qualify for a Grand Slam championship, has developed the habit of winning matches.

Though this is likely to end when she enounters Mary Pierce, the fourth seed, in the third round tomorrow, Melbourne has been delighted to say hello, Dally.

Mocking a ranking of No 243 in the world, she has glided gracefully to straight-set victories against the Argentinians Florencia Labat (No 45) and Patricia Tarabini (No 106).

The last occasion the sports-daft state of Victoria had reason to take notice of an athlete from Madagascar was 20 years ago, when the sprinter Jean Louis Ravelomantsoa won the 120 metres Stawell Gift professional foot race. Ravelomantsoa, it may be recalled, finished eighth behind Jim Hines in the American's world record 100 metres (9.95sec) at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Randriantefy, one of 2,000 registered tennis players from a 6m population (Britain has about 300,000 from 56m), benefited from the International Tennis Association's development programme and also from a Swiss sponsor.

The sponsorship was withdrawn recently - "they were waiting for results, and the results didn't come" - but not before Randriantefy had become acquainted with Martina Hingis, the 14-year-old Czech-born Swiss prodigy. They played each other in junior tournaments and inter-club events, Hingis winning five of their seven matches, and for a time were doubles partners.

Surprisingly, Randriantefy has advanced a round farther than Hingis in their first Grand Slam championship, but, provided the response is sensible, this could prove to be anything but retrograde for the younger player.

Hingis, who won her opening match, 6-0, 7-6, against Jolene Watanabe, a 26-year-old Californian, ranked No 90, lost yesterday to Kyoko Nagatsuka, 6-3, 6-4. The rankings suggested a close contest, the Japanese going into the match one place above Hingis, at No 72. But the Swiss was expected to win.

Though Hingis is gifted, she tends to play a conservative game when possible, opting for comfortable shot-making if an opponent shows signs of being easily dominated. In similar circumstances, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, the last prodigy, would increase the tempo and go for the kill.

It is to be hoped that Hingis's approach will prove to be her salvation in the long term, preventing excessive physical stress while her body grows and delaying the day when a major success increases public expectancy.

Yesterday, she swept into a 3-0 lead in seven minutes, and then eased off sufficiently to allow Nagatsuka to improve her range and timing. The Japanese tailored her shots from the baseline to hit the lines, and Hingis won only nine more points in the set.

It was not until Nagatsuka extended her lead to 2-0, 40-0 in the second set that Hingis came back to life, going for winners and petulantly dropping her racket when upset by her errors, or those she perceived to have been made by the line judges.

Nagatsuka's confidence began to drain. She double-faulted to present Hingis with a 3-2 lead, and was pleasantly surprised when her opponent reciprocated in the next game.

Errors punctuated the remainder of the match, Nagatsuka breaking for 5-3, then twice double-faulting when serving for the match. Hingis was unable to hold serve and sneak through the escape hatch, losing on the second match point.

Patience is recommended to those responsible for Hingis's welfare. Something Hingis said yesterday had an ominous ring: "It has been tennis and tennis. Yesterday I just watched other matches. Perhaps I should have done something else."

Problems are not restricted to teenagers, as Jim Courier and Michael Stich have discovered. Both appear to be starting the year in a more optimstic mood. They are one match away from meeting in the fourth round, with the winner likely to face Pete Sampras, the defending champion, in the quarter-finals.

Stich doubled his number of wins in the first three Grand Slams of last year (a drought relieved by reaching the final of the United States Open) with a second-round victory against the American Alex O'Brien, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.

Courier, the ninth seed, advanced by defeating Cristiano Caratti, of Italy, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. "I was glad to put last year behind me," the American said. "I had a wonderful holiday of about seven and a half weeks.''

n Naoko Sawamatsu, the leading Japanese player who won her first-round match yesterday, will continue playing at the Australian Open despite learning that her family home was destroyed and her best friend was killed in Tuesday's earthquake.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea