Tennis: Hingis survives some pinch-hitting

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Gloria Pizzichini's surname translates as "little pinches", which is a gross underestimation of the effect the diminutive Italian had on Martina Hingis in the second round of the French Open here in Paris yesterday. Big kick in the derriere would be more appropriate.

The youngest ever world No 1, lacking her usual zest, mobility and timing, and lulled, perhaps, by the fact that she had swatted Pizzichini for the loss of only one game in Tokyo in January, came close to losing for the first time this year.

Pizzichini double-faulted on a game point which would have stretched her lead to 6-3, 5-3. "I was too afraid to win the match." Hingis recovered to win, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. "When she made the double-fault, I said to myself: 'Thank God'," the 16-year-old said.

Venus Williams also has cause to remember a double-fault, although in the 16-year-old American's case it brought her first appearance in a Grand Slam championship to an unhappy close. Williams was defeated by the experienced Nathalie Tauziat, of France, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

The double-fault, which came on Tauziat's third match point, was not an isolated incident. Williams had committed a dozen of them previously. Indeed, neither player could be said to have enriched another sunny afternoon, each contributing 51 errors to the performance.

Hingis avoided the indignity of becoming the earliest top seed to depart the women's singles here in the open era, and instead extended her winning sequence to 36 (including two in the Fed Cup and four in the Hopman Cup). This places her second to Steffi Graf, who strung together 45 victories at the start of 1987.

The third round brings together Hingis and Anna Kournikova, 16 on Saturday week, the day of the women's final. It will be their first match on the professional tour, Hingis having defeated the Russian twice in junior competition, 6-0, 6-0 on the second occasion, in the second round of the United States Open.

"The score doesn't say anything about that match," Kournikova insisted. "It was actually a good match. It just happened that she was also No 1 in the juniors. She was also first seed. I played very well, but she won all the important points. We are both playing different tennis now."

Kournikova, who defeated Italy's Sandra Cecchini yesterday, 6-2, 6-2, has scouted Hingis's opening matches, an impressive first-round win against Henrieta Nagyova, of Solvakia, 6-0, 6-2, and the opening set of the faltering performance against Pizzichini.

"She [Martina] was not prepared, I think," Kournikova said. "She was not thinking about her opponent. Martina's had an injury and an operation. It's hard to say how our match will go, but I'm going to take it as a normal match."

Pizzichini was unable to achieve that at the crucial moment. Before her capitulation, however, she had stunned Hingis by winning the opening four games of the first set and retrieving a 1-3 deficit in the second. The Swiss, irritated by her own shortcomings, threw her racket on a couple of occasions.

Hingis, asked what happened in the first set, said, "I just played like...", checking herself before adding, "I don't want to say a bad word."

She continued: "Maybe I took it a little easy because the first match was more difficult than it looked. It took a lot of power out of me. I just couldn't hit the ball in the first set. I couldn't find my timing."

And what about the rehabilitation of her left knee after surgery following her fall from a horse in April? "Sometimes, of course, I'm a little scared that I don't run for the drop-shots that much, or from one side to the other. I have a little fear, yes.

"I played very well in the first match, but I was a bit stressed afterwards because of the nerves. Yesterday in the doubles [with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario] I didn't play very well. And today I thought the match was going to be easier. But I don't think the knee affected my performance."


seeded players in capitals

Men's singles

Second round: C Woodruff (US) bt N Lapentti (Ecu) 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-1; R KRAJICEK (Neth) bt B Ulihrach (Cz Rep) 6-2 3-6 6-2 6-3; M Larsson (Swe) bt F MANTILLA (Sp) 6-2 6-4 3-6 6-3; W FERREIRA (SA) bt R Carretero (Sp) 7-6 4-6 6-1 2-6 6-4; S Simian (Fr) bt J Krocsko (Hun) 6-3 6-3 7-6; P Rafter (Aus) bt F Fontang (Fr) 6-3 6-4 6-3; H Arazi (Mor) bt T Woodbridge (Aus) 6-4 7-5 6-2; A Boetsch (Fr) bt M Ondruska (SA) 6- 3 6-2 6-1; D Norman (Bel) bt S Stolle (Aus) 5-7 6-4 7-6 6-3; M CHANG (US) bt J Golmard (Fr) 6-2 6-3 3-6 6-2; M Woodforde (Aus) bt A Volkov (Rus) 7-6 6-3 7-5; G Blanco (Sp) bt M Gustafsson (Swe) 6-4 4-6 6-4 7-6; A COSTA (Sp) bt A Pavel (Rom) 6-1 4-6 0-6 6-3 6-4; P Korda (Cz Rep) bt C Costa (Sp) 6-3 7-5 6-4; S BRUGUERA (Sp) bt D Van Scheppingen (Neth) 6-2 6-3 6-3.

Women's singles

Second round: B SCHULTZ-MCCARTHY (Neth) bt F Labat (Arg) 4-6 7-6 6-4; N Tauziat (Fr) bt V Williams (US) 5-7 6-3 7-5; M PIERCE (Fr) bt P Hy-Boulais (Can) 6-1 6-3; L Raymond (US) bt T Tanasugarn (Thai) 6-1 6-1; F Perfetti (It) bt L Ghirardi-Rubbi (Fr) 6-4 6-1; A Kournikova (Rus) bt S Cecchini (It) 6-2 6-1; M HINGIS (Swit) bt G Pizzichini (It) 3-6 6-4 6-1; K Po (US) bt Y Yoshida (Japan) 6-3 6- 0; B PAULUS (Aut) bt Wang Shi-Ting (Tai) 6-2 6-2; M SELES (US) bt S Pitkowski (Fr) 6-3 7-5; A SANCHEZ-VICARIO (Sp) bt A Sugiyama (Japan) 6-3 6-1; N Zvereva (Bela) bt M Lamarre (Fr) 6-4 7-5; S Farina (It) bt P Begerow (Ger) 6-4 6-2; D Van Roost (Bel) bt E Gagliardi (Swit) 6-2 6-0; S Testud (Fr) bt C Cristea (Rom) 6-0 6-4; M J FERNANDEZ (US) bt A Glass (Ger) 6-1 6-0.