We’re used to swaggering, in-your-face trash talk from NBA players, boxers and even a few politicians, but teenagers in tennis skirts? There’s a new generation of women on the court. They’re young. They’re pretty. And they’re unbelievably brash about everything. Here’s 17-year-old Martina Hingis explaining her lack of humility：“ People say that I am arrogant. I am No. 1 in the world, so I have a right to be arrogant.”
Actually she’s the best in the world. Two years after becoming the youngest No. 1 player in history, Hingis won her second Family Circle title.
Hingis came to Britain in 1997, posing with a large “No. 1” made of tennis balls. A week later, she had earned her sixth straight title and 31st straight victory with a Family Circle title.
“At that stage, you don’t really get it that you’re the best tennis player in the world,” Hingis, 18, said after a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kournikova Sunday. “There is always another match to go, another tournament.” It was only later, she said, she realized, “I became No. 1. I’m like the best.”
Hardly arguing anymore now. It’s been a difficult week in the shadows for Hingis, pushed aside by the all-Williams’ final at the Lipton Championships last week and Kournikova’s run through the Family Circle.
“With the Williams sisters and Anna, I was saying, ‘What about me?’” said Hingis, who earned $150, 000. “I think this was about time.” Hingis doesn’t mind talk of her rivals. “So long as they’re lower than me, I’m fine,” she said.
Kournikova gave her a run on the concourse and practice courts at the Sea Pines Racquet Club, though. The sassy Russian star’s poster was one of the hottest items at the season’s first clay court tournament. Her doubles matches got only attention. Even Fox Sports Net analyst Pam Oliver told Kournikova, when presenting her with the runner-up honor, that she was “really popular with the men.”
But Hingis, smiling most of the way, showed who’s No. 1 on the court. She trailed Kournikova 4-3 in the opening set, but broke the Russian’s serve three staight times in winning the next six games.
When Korunikova struck back to close the second set to 3-2, Hingis broke serve again to regain control. When Kournikova’s forehand slapped the net, Hingis had closed out her third tournament win this year and her 10th straight Family Circle singles victory.
Kournikova’s game was erratic. She overcame Hingis’ 40-15 lead in the first set. Then she double-faulted twice to lose the next one.
“You have to play smart and be patient with her,” Kournikova said. “But I made a few unforced errors because I tried to go for too much.”
Hingis stayed steady throughout, never letting Kournikova break away. And when the crowd tried to pull Kournidova through, Hingis would remind them with a surprise drop shot or sharp forehand winner who’s No. 1.
Kournikova acknowledged the support she gets. She’s confident in her ability — she beat Hingis at last year’s German Open — but said she knows her game needs the seasoning she can get by advancing to finals.
“This is great for me, great for my confidence,” Kournikova said. “This gave me some experience and hopefully, I won’t be a runner-up much longer.” But Hingis will rest for about a month, returning to the tour at the Italian Open. She understands a lot better about the knack of winning crucial points and staying on top.
“(If) you are better ranked, you’re a better player, you win the match,” Hingis said. “If not, you always are the loser.”