Classic Rivalries: Williams vs. Hingis
In the turn of the 20th century, a young teenage phenom by the name of Martina Hingis took the tennis world by storm, winning five Grand Slams in short order, and most at the tender age of 17. Unfortunately for Hingis, another incredible tennis talent would come immediately behind her. That would be Serena Williams, arguably the best women’s tennis player that ever lived.
What these both ladies provided were four years of incredible matches; Serena’s natural athleticism and power, against Hingis’ ability to absorb power and redirect rallies. Both are strategic masters. Both are Grand Slam winners and former number ones. Here’s how this rivalry played out. They met 16 times during their career, with Serena edging out the rivalry 7-6.
What amazes me about the rivalry is how close it was. You can say that Serena was younger and didn’t really start dominating until at a later age. I disagree with that sentiment; you can argue Serena was better back then, because she was quicker, younger, had nothing to lose, and played a lot more freely.
This rivalry brought some classic matches. Serena edged Hingis 3-1 in Grand Slams, but Hingis edged Serena in WTA Tier 1 tournaments, such as the Miami Open, Canadian Open and Italian Open. In women’s tennis, that’s an important fact because those tournaments are just as difficult to win than Grand Slams. The top three matches are as follows:
1998 Miami Open Quarterfinals: this was their first ever meeting. Both 17 in 1998, however Hingis already had four Grand Slam titles to her name. Serena took it to Hingis, but ultimately lost in a contested third set tie-break.
1999 US Open Final: Hingis was the clear favorite. Serena was still playing second fiddle to Venus. However, Serena came out swinging with nothing to lose. Hingis had already dispatched Venus in the semifinal. However, she would not get a win against both siblings. This was Serena’s coming out party.
2001 Australian Open Quarters: the longest match they ever played. Hingis wins 8-6 in the third set after two hours of play. Martina was the number one seed at this tournament and would go on to beat Venus Williams in the semis. Having to beat both Williams sisters back to back may have taken too much out of Hingis, because she would lose in straight sets to Jennifer Capriati in the final.