Hingis looks for the mean streak

Ronald Atkin says the world No 1 needs to recover the killer instinct
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The Independent Online

Perhaps it is the influence of that neighbouring zany segment of the planet, Miami's South Beach, but womentennis players have suddenly sprouted the new fashion,animal colours.

When she went to the WTA Awards dinner the other evening to collect her prize, with Martina Hingis, as Doubles Team of the Year, Anna Kournikova, that retiring violet, turned up tottering on six-inch heels and clad in a skintight see-through dress offering virtually uninterrupted views of a leopard-skin bikini underneath.

Then, at the Ericsson Open here in Key Biscayne on Friday, a burly Canadian called Maureen Drake turned out for her second-round match with Hingis shimmering in agolden (mock) leopard-skin top and skirt, abetted by Dame Edna sunglasses. It did plenty for the crowd's amusement but little for her game.

The 29-year-old Miami-based Drake crashed to a 6-1 6-4 defeat in 65 minutes, but she was a dazzling spectacle, earning plaudits from the worldNo 1. "I saw her first in the locker room and I said, 'I like your dress. Who made it for you?' And she said, 'It's Mo Magic'. It was her own line."

Drake has been around a long, long time, but only began to make a mark last year when, for the first time, she played all four Grand Slams. At 80th in the rankings and a year short of 30, Drake's future as a player is clearly limited, but she seems to lead a lively existence from her base in this part of Florida. The WTA player guide tells us that the Toronto-born Mo practises daily meditation and prayer "and wants to validate holistic healing in athletics and life". She also does volunteer work at a shelter for the Miami homeless.

Her resemblance to a Las Vegas cocktail waitress did not deter her from a few hearty wallops of the ball which had Hingis mis-hitting and uncertain in a swirling wind. That said, the Swiss 19-year-old, who needs to do better at this tournament than Lindsay Davenport if she is not to lose her grip on the No 1 position, won eight games in succession from 2-1 in the opening set.

Then, in the sort of lapse which has been recurringrecently and which wears even deeper furrows in the forehead of her mother-coach, Melanie Molitor, she stood at5-2 in the second set, had a match point but then let the Golden Canary at the other end of the court win a couple of games.

Yes, Hingis admitted, she had been doing a spot of ruminating about her game since that embarrassing collapse in last weekend's Indian Wellsfinal. For one thing, she said, she has decided not to play doubles in Key Biscayne. "I had quite a tough schedule at Indian Wells, and also in Scottsdale the previous week. I am trying not to make the same mistake here, which is why I have turned down doubles."

As for beating Davenport, Hingis feels the different conditions here will be more to her liking. Indian Wells was dry, hot and calm. Florida offers extreme humidity and, as often as not, bothersome breezes. "It's different here, different courts. The weather will play a very important part. I just hope I get another chance to beat Lindsay because I was very close. I have been working on something to improve my game. But I want to keep it a secret," she giggled.

Hingis has a much easier draw than Davenport but she does not necessarily find that helpful to her preparations. "Sometimes it is better to have tough matches. Last week I had to face a tougher opponent every round, so by the time I got to Lindsay I was ready for her. But if I can play her again here, that would be great."

Monica Seles, Hingis'likely semi-final opponent, marched forward to the third round with a brisk 6-4 6-1 demolition of the American Liliah Osterloh, while Kourn-ikova, seeded ninth and clad in a simple but figure-hugging white number for a change, put away another little-rated American, Jennifer Hopkins,6-2 6-4.

Davenport was in even brisker mood against Anne Kremer, extinguishing Luxembourg's leading light 6-1, 6-2 in 52 minutes, which included several minutes of treatment to Kremer's overworked feet.

Results from the $5.76 million Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida:

Women Singles Second Round

(2) Lindsay Davenport (US) def. Anne Kremer (Lux) 6-1, 6-2. Elena Dementieva (Rus) def. (3) Mary Pierce (Fr) 6-3, 2-1, ret. (5) Serena Williams (US) def. Magdalena Maleeva (Bul) 6-4, 6-2. Nadeja Petrova (Rus) def. (8) Julie Halard-Decugis (Fr) 6-2, 6-3. (10) Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (Sp) def. Cristina Torrens-Valero (Sp) 7-6 (7), 6-2. (12) Sandrine Testud (Fr) def. Fabiola Zuluaga (Col) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9). (13) Jennifer Capriati (US) def. Brie Rippner (US) 7-5, 6-1. Chanda Rubin (US) def. Amelie Cocheteux (Fr) 6-2, 6-2. Sylvia Plischke (Aut) def. Nicole Pratt (Aus) 7-5, 7-5. (15) Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) def. Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo (Sp) 6-4, 6-1. Sarah Pitkowski (Fr) def. Cara Black (Zim) 6-2, 6-0. Ruxandra Dragomir (Rom) def. Tatiana Panova (Rus) 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Ai Sugiyama (Japan) def. Erika de Lone (US) 6-2, 7-6 (5). Silvija Talaja (Cro) def. Tina Pisnik (Slov) 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. Sabine Appelmans (Bel) def. Silvia Farina (It) 7-6 (2), 6-3. Anastasia Myskina (Rus) def. Corina Morariu (US) 6-4, 6-4.

Doubles First Round

Els Callens (Bel) and Sonya Jeyaseelan (Can) def. Lilia Osterloh (US) and Vanessa Webb (Can) 6-4, 6-2. Nicole Arendt (US) and Manon Bollegraf (Neth) def. Tara Snyder and Meilen Tu (US) 7-6 (4), 7-5. Mirjana Lucic (Cro) and Alexandra Stevenson (US) def. Debbie Graham (US) and Nana Miyagi (Japan) 6-4, 6-2. Amanda Coetzer (SA) and Lori McNeil (US) def. Lenka Nemeckova (Cz Rep) and Yuka Yoshida (Japan) 6-3, 6-4.