Hingis top - but for how long?

Hingis's rivals are closing in Keystone

Another year without a Grand Slam title, another week as world number one. Despite her defeat in the US Open semi-finals Martina Hingis remains on top of the world rankings, although few expect the Swiss star to hold on for much longer.

This content was published on September 10, 2001 - 12:38

"The irrelevant number one" was how the New York Times described Hingis following her straight sets loss to Serena Williams on Friday. Former men's tennis legend John McEnroe joined in the criticism, telling the New York crowd they should forget the number one ranking.

The controversy surrounding the tennis rankings centres on the system used by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) to work out just who is the best player in the world.

Strong finish

Because the rankings are calculated over a 12 month period, Hingis is still able to profit from her extremely strong finish at the end of last season. As those points drop off in the weeks ahead, though, the Swiss number one is likely to lose the top spot.

Just to maintain her current points tally, Hingis will have to match her autumn achievements of last year by winning in Filderstadt, Moscow, Kloten and at the Masters, as well as reaching the final in Philadelphia.

Even if she were to confound her critics by garnering the necessary points, Hingis is still likely to see her number one status denounced as meaningless.

Her opponents point out that Hingis is now without a Grand Slam title in almost three seasons, and has not won a tournament of any kind since February.


That, though, is to ignore the Swiss player's general consistency in making it through to more finals and semi-finals than her biggest rivals. Hingis has made it through to the last four or beyond on no less than 14 occasions this year (compared to 11 for Jennifer Capriati, nine for Venus Williams and three for Serena Williams).

It is true that Hingis also benefits from the quantity of tennis she plays. The US Open was her 22nd tournament of the year, making her schedule busier than those of the Williams sisters combined.

Venus Williams may have won two Grand Slam titles this season, but she has only turned up at 12 tournaments in all, while Serena Williams has competed in a mere nine. Put simply, if the American siblings want to challenge for the world number one spot, they know what they have to do.

With the next three places in the world rankings taken up by Americans, the criticism levelled at Hingis's during her time in New York could certainly be put down to misplaced patriotism.

Swiss tennis fans will also be hoping that the various 'obituaries' written on Hingis's future prospects in the game proved to be similarly misplaced.


While Hingis certainly seemed unable to deal with Serena Williams' power game during their semi-final encounter in New York, it seems somewhat premature to believe that the Swiss player will never again be able to out-think the hard-hitters.

After all, Serena's latest victory came after three successive defeats by Hingis. Venus Williams, meanwhile, is still trailing 8-10 in her previous head-to-heads against Hingis, who at January's Australian Open became the first player to dump both sisters out of the same Grand Slam tournament (beating Venus 6-1, 6-1).

The meteoric rise of the Williams sisters and their apparent ability to reserve their best tennis for the sport's biggest tournaments means that Hingis could certainly struggle to dominate the game in the way she has done in recent seasons.

But after becoming the youngest ever world number one at the age of 16 in 1997, and subsequently going on to spend more than 200 weeks at the top spot, the Swiss star is unlikely to slip away quietly in the difficult weeks and months ahead.

by Mark Ledsom

Latest WTA world rankings:

1. Martina Hingis (Switzerland) 5,256 points; 2. Jennifer Capriati (USA) 5,123; 3. Lindsay Davenport (USA) 4,345; 4. Venus Williams (USA) 4,333; 5. Kim Clijsters (Belgium) 3,176; 6. Amelie Mauresmo (France) 2,842; 7. Serena Williams (USA) 2,753; 8. Justine Henin (Belgium) 2,635; 9. Monica Seles (USA) 2,138; 10. Nathalie Tauziat (France) 2,083.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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