Tennis: Hingis starts with a win on the court and off it

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The Independent Online
The end of season finale of the Women's Tennis Association had looked like being no more than a moderate work-out for the world No 1, Martin Hingis. But her first appearance on court held some surprises. Bob Greene reports from New York.

Martina Hingis won a difficult opening-round match at the women's season- ending Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when Brenda Schultz-McCarthy retired injured.

Hingis was leading 7-6, 5-2 when Schultz-McCarthy withdrew because of pain from a broken right toenail. Earlier, the sixth-seeded Iva Majoli had won her first-round match, edging out Anke Huber 7-6, 7-6.

In the night's final match, Jana Novotna, the No 2 seed, defeated Conchita Martinez 6-4, 6-4.

Hingis kept her award-winning streak going on Tuesday when she was named the Corel WTA Tour's Player of the Year. She was named Most Impressive Newcomer in 1995 and Most Improved Player in 1996.

This year, she has won 12 tournaments going into the season-ending Chase Championships, and been victorious at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. She has been ranked No 1 since March.

The final score was not indicative of the battle Schultz-McCarthy gave Hingis on the Madison Square Garden carpet. Until she was injured, the 6ft 2in Dutch woman with the biggest serve in women's tennis pounded Hingis with her huge strokes, holding her own against a player who has lost only four times this year.

On the penultimate point in the second game of the second set, Schultz- McCarthy raced to the net. But, as she tried to change direction, she appeared to stub her toe and lost the point.

Hingis won the next point to level at 1-1. Then, instead of serving, Schultz-McCarthy went to the umpire Missy Malool and asked for an injury time-out. She had ripped off a portion of the big toenail on her right foot.

"I went to volley and I had to reach," Schultz-McCarthy said. "My toe just totally went up. My nail went off my toe completely."

After having the toe attended to, Schultz-McCarthy returned to the court and held her service to 15 for a 2-1 lead. It was the last game she would win.

In the fourth game, the only point Schultz-McCarthy won was via a Hingis double-faulted. By then, the world's top-ranked player was in control as her Dutch opponent was apparently bothered by her foot. After she lost her next two service games, Schultz-McCarthy retired from the match.

The national champion, Sam Smith, will lead the British team in the First Division of the European Women's Team Championship at Redbridge Sports Centre, Essex, later this month. The former Wimbledon champion Ann Jones will be the non-playing captain of the British team.