Hingis keeps ambitions in check after second-round scare

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The Independent Online

It comes to something when you sound old at the tender age of 26, yet Martina Hingis, already coming to the end of the second year of her second career, is beginning to sound a little like Methuselah's grandmother.

The Swiss had a bit of a scare as she reached the third round, being pushed around in the second set by Pauline Parmentier, the world No 106 from France, before coming through 6-2, 7-5. In the good old days when Hingis was a regular fixture at the top of the rankings tree, she would have been mortified to have had to work so hard so early on in the tournament, but now she takes nothing for granted, not even her appearance on the major show courts.

"It's nice I'm given the chance and opportunity to play out there and show myself from a good side," she said, sounding a little downbeat. "It's really just the appreciation. It's there. I'm very happy to be playing again. I already did better than last year. So I feel like I've got nothing to lose out here this time. Obviously, I have some good experiences, some memories."

Hingis's return to the circuit at the beginning of last year and her rapid rise through the rankings proved to her that talent does not go away, but it did not mean that she could still win the titles that she once mopped up with ease. Her problem since her comeback is that she can play with the very best, she just cannot beat them. Not regularly, anyway.

She is parked in the bottom half of the draw, safely away from the big and powerful Williams sisters and hidden from the craft and wiles of Justine Henin. In theory, she ought to be planning an assault on the semi-final and a showdown with Maria Sharapova, but she is only pondering her next match with Victoria Azarenka – and even then she is not too confident.

A hip injury scuppered her clay-court season and restricted the rest of the summer. Now that she is fit again, she is keeping her ambitions in check.

"In my position, I don't feel I can underestimate anybody," she said. "Any opponent on a given day can come out and beat you. She's a tough, up-and-coming player. You never know what you're going to get."

Unfortunately for Hingis, all she is going to get is even older – and who knows what she will sound like then?