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The sponsorship was withdrawn recently - "they were waiting for results, and the results didn't come" - but not before Randriantefy had become acquainted with Martina Hingis, the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.

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher

£110 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently seeking a ...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor