Tennis: US Open - Hingis takes on a family challenge

World No 1's rehabilitation virtually complete as she breaks Williams final monopoly

MAYBE Richard Williams, father of the famous sisters, knew something the rest of the audience didn't when he walked out in the middle of the second set of his daughter Venus's semi-final against Martina Hingis at the US Open on Friday night.

Having been overrun in the first set, Venus was mounting a commendable fightback when dad pushed off to his Manhattan hotel. By then her sister Serena was already in the final and for a long time, until her serving rhythm and stamina deserted her, Venus looked a good bet to join her, just as Richard Williams had been predicting throughout the tournament. But it was Hingis who had the last word, winning 6-1 4-6 6-3, a two-hour feast of hitting and skill which was the best contest the US Open has seen this year.

"Venus Warns Martina" thundered the headline in the Daily News a couple of days ago. There has been a lot of that sort of stuff but, as Hingis said as she anticipated one more contest en route to the championship, "With talking, I can't beat them. I know that. So I have to try to beat them on court."

She did that in some style, assisted enormously by Venus's horrendous count of 60 unforced errors and 11 double faults, as she clocked up her eighth win in their 11 meetings. The shot of the fortnight was struck by the Swiss 18-year-old. Not renowned for her speed about the court, Hingis ran down a ball which had only just cleared the net and, forgoing her normal double-handed backhand style, whipped it one-handed around the netpost and into the deepest corner of Williams' court to take her to match point.

"I was running, like boom, boom, boom, one step after the other," said Hingis. "I didn't believe I was going to get to it. It was unbelievable, I was so lucky." By then Venus had already undergone treatment for cramp in both thighs and the Hingis victory needed only her signature. But if she had not already been down and out, Venus would have been poleaxed by that incredible shot.

While conceding she had been "lucky", Hingis made a point of qualifying that comment: "I think luck is always on the side of the better player at that moment."

Asked about her own good or bad fortune, Venus said, "I don't believe in luck. If it all came down to luck I would lie in bed every morning and not get up and practise. It wasn't luck that won Martina the match, but everyone has the right to believe what they want. Everything that comes, comes for a reason. That reason is hard work or something else. I don't believe things just happen because the wind blows and luck just lands on you."

For Hingis, the rehabilitation is virtually complete after the horrors of her tantrum in the final of the French Open and the nightmare first- round exit at Wimbledon when she opted to play without the presence of her mother, Melanie Molitor. The beam on mother Molitor's face matched Martina's as Venus's final error, a backhand service return, sailed long. Now there was only the muscled bulk of Serena, at 17 the younger of the girls, blocking her path towards a second US Open crown.

Hingis has worked as assiduously at reinstalling herself in the hearts of tennis followers as she has at improving her fitness. As the Williams girls loomed ever larger in her thinking, it became clear that mere shot- making would not be enough against opponents who could run all day and wallop the ball harder than anybody else in women's tennis. So she has been devoting time to her own fitness campaign and paid tribute to the woman she was named after, Martina Navratilova. "Martina said anybody can get in good shape."

That she has done so was clear under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium as Venus Williams limped off to the locker-room and Hingis did a small lap of honour, waving and grinning.

Hingis had looked all business from the moment she walked on court, and when she surged through the opening set in 24 minutes, John McEnroe ventured the opinion from his TV commentary box that Venus had been hit by a Swiss truck.

But such stompings only serve to fire the determination of both Williams girls and, in a contest in which serve was broken 15 times, the Venus counter-attack cost Hingis her first dropped set of the tournament. With a 3-2 service-break lead in the final set Venus was in with a great chance of fulfilling her absent father's prediction of an all-Williams final, but by then she was labouring.

The toll this marvellous match had taken was most evident in her serving, normally the bedrock of her game. Her ball toss and swing had disintegrated and one double fault was so horrendous that both serves bounced on her side of the court before landing in the net.

The Williams girls had shattered the mould of women's tennis back in March when they contested the final of the Key Biscayne tournament, Venus winning in three sets. But if such success has gone to their heads it certainly doesn't show. When Serena had completed her demolition job on the defending champion, Lindsay Davenport, in the other semi-final, 6- 4 1-6 6-4, she ran into Venus on her way back to the locker-room. Did they hug, kiss or high-five? Did they speak? "Yeah," said Serena. "She asked me for her hairbrush because I had it."

Father Williams has long claimed that Serena will become the better player of his daughters. Certainly she has the right attitude, admirably combined with a frankness and sense of humour. Having recovered from a third-set deficit of 3-5 to defeat Kim Clijsters in the third round, Serena opined, "I was almost out of this tournament that day. But I didn't want that. I came here with the goal to do very well. I didn't come to lose in the third round. I was determined to get through."

Well, she has done that, gatecrashing her first Grand Slam final. At least Hingis knew what she was up against. "Another one," she grinned with a lift of the eyebrows. "I was so far never able to beat both of them at the same tournament. But, hopefully, there is always a first time."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried