Tennis: Hingis reveals a dark ambition

Nick Callow reports on why her blonde rivals don't worry Martina Hingis
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The Independent Online
MARTINA HINGIS does not care if blondes have more fun than her because they are not too good at tennis, and that is all that matters to the defending champion and No 1 seed.

Hingis (brown hair, occasionally dyed jet-black), gets her kicks from destroying opponents on Centre Court and she was grinning even more than normal after breezing into the last 16 with a 6-2 6-1 win over Elena Likhovtseva. The world No 1, after two tentative performances, took only 48 minutes to beat her Russian opponent and hit top form at the end of a week in which many of her rivals suffered surprise defeats.

"All the blonde ones have lost," Hingis mischievously pointed out with a laugh, in reference to Steffi Graf, Mary Pierce and Amanda Coetzer, and the injury to Anna Kournikova that prevented her competing.

Hingis added: "Most of those players were in the other half of the draw anyway, and I wasn't afraid of playing against any of them." Not that the Czech-turned-Swiss player intends to be beating all comers forever.

"In five years I don't know what is going to happen," Hingis said. "Maybe I will be a mother already. No, I hope not because I want to enjoy my life first. Everybody before me, when they were 16 or 17, said they would not play on for another 10 years but you still see them running around the court so I don't know what will happen. I'm happy at the moment."

Hingis did express some fear, about her next opponent, believing that her former junior adversary, Cara Black of Zimbabwe, would defeat Tamarine Tanasugarn. Well, Hingis got that wrong, and she will have to defeat Thailand's world No 44 to earn a likely quarter-final meeting with the Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

The reigning French Open champion and two-time Wimbledon runner-up was due to play twice yesterday and started in impressive form. Sanchez won the opening two games to complete a 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over Magdalena Grzybowska of Poland, before moving into a third-round match against Austria's Sylvia Plischke.

At 26, Sanchez is now regarded as one of the senior members on the women's tour, defiantly trying to slow the progress of the teenage terrors such as Hingis, Kournikova and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, who are known collectively as the Spice Girls.

But Sanchez proved that the cocooned life of a top tennis player has not prevented her from keeping in touch with the hip youngsters. Her post- match press conference ended with her thoughts on the world's most famous pop group and how she still listens to them for inspiration.

She said: "I think the Beatles were a great group and they have great music. So it's a little bit unlucky that they split, you know. But I think they have great songs still and they relax me, so that's why I still put them on."

One of the game's original Spice Girls, Monica Seles, took to Court One, but the No 6 seed had to contend with earth, wind, fire and rain before completing a 6-2 6-3 win over Indonesia's Yayuk Basuki.

The players knocked up in an extraordinary smoke-filled atmosphere, created by the raging fire in a nearby tower block and Seles admitted: "We were both very concerned and I wondered whether the air was OK to breathe. Luckily the rain came at the right time and it was the right thing to go on."

Seles now faces a further test of her renewed abilities in a fourth-round clash with the French No 14 seed Sandrine Testud. Seles added: "She beat me here last year and we have both improved since then. I like her a lot, so may the best player win."

Elsewhere in the women's draw, there was a remarkable three-set second- round win for Chanda Rubin, who continued her comeback from injury by beating her fellow American Tara Snyder 3-6 7-5 11-9.

But none of the other matches could detract from the impressive performance of Hingis, who believes she is finding her feet on grass again, and added: "My first matches were tough, but this time I served a lot better and that makes the game a lot easier for me." It will not make the game any easier, however, for her likely victims ahead.

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