Lawn Tennis, Australian Open, Lawn Tennis Magazine
11 Years Ago... Venus Williams Sizzles In Teenqueen Battle

By Tripp Mateschitz, Lawn Tennis Correspondent, Posted: Sunday, January 4, 2009 5:00pm PST USA
11 Years Ago... Venus Williams Sizzles In Sydney Teenqueen Battle, Martina Hingis, Australian Open, Lawn Tennis Magazine MELBOURNE--( Reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams of the USA is yet to win the upcoming Australian Open, but eleven years ago, Williams posted a major breakthrough at an Australian Open warmup tournament at Sydney as she would defeat her then teenqueen rival, Martina Hingis of Switzerland.

Hingis and Williams both first became famous as preteen tennis prodigies, but as Hingis had chosen to play and rule over the junior tennis circuit, Williams as well as her younger sister Serena Williams had for the most part remained some sort of mysteries, unseen to most of the tennis public.

Then Williams committed to playing a full WTA Tour schedule in 1997 and won a majority of her matches based on her powerful and athletic groundstrokes. However Williams had failed to score a victory against the more seasoned Hingis in their first two career meetings as Hingis had not dropped a set in outsteading the still emerging Williams from the baseline.

Of her early career hit or miss style of play, Williams would say, “if it was in, it was in. If it was out, it was out.”

Venus Williams of the USA
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, Lawn Tennis Magazine
The courtside temperature neared 100 degrees as the 17 year olds Venus Williams and Martina Hingis would split the first two sets.

In September of 1997, in their third career meeting, Williams lost to Hingis in the final of the US Open badly 6-0, 6-4. Williams, then only 17 years old, had reached the New York final in her tournament debut by trading winners and errors with six less talented opponents.

But against Hingis, it was “a different match” as Williams would put it as Hingis' solid and tactical plays outlasted the extreme firepower of Williams. Hingis mixed sharp angles and topspin to keep Williams off balance and prolonged a majority of the points to draw error after error. The Swiss would anger some of the American's supporters as she would take a mock forehand swing as one of Williams' groundstrokes would sail long.

And despite the one-sided scoreline, Williams after the match refused to concede much to Hingis, saying “she played a little bit better than me.”

Then in January of 1998, only four months later, it was the world's number one ranked Hingis' first match of the year and both players debuted one piece white dresses from their clothing sponsors. It would be the first of Williams' many one piece dresses as she would become known in part for her fashion on the court.

Hingis applied icepacks to her neck on the changeovers in between serving up her winning mix of topspin and placement as the courtside temperature neared 100 degrees as the two players would split the first two sets.

Then Williams suffered prolonged leg cramps which forced a medical timeout with the American in tears as she sat courtside. And as Williams grimaced in pain, it appeared that she might retire from the match each time she approached the net. But she fought on and her determination would soon pay off.

Williams earlier in the match had patiently traded groundstrokes with Hingis to stay in a larger number of points, but she in the third set went for much shorter points and hit an increasing number of groundstroke winners and aces to close out the match 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Williams had attacked Hingis' short serves and topspin groundstokes with an alarming display of groundstroke force. Then after a celebratory jump and a wave after matchpoint, Williams said her goal was to be number one that year before adding, “anyone can talk, but you have to walk.”

Share: facebook Facebook Digg

Copyright Lawn Tennis 1997-2009 | Home