What caught my attention first was the news item declaring that David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer for a second time within as many weeks, the latter losing in straight sets at the third round of the Paris Masters 6-4, 7-6 (3). Nalbandian got himself inducted into an elite group of tennis players who had the great fortune (and skill plus cunning!) of beating the world no. 1 this year- doing it twice to boot. Not that it’s his first time to beat the Federer Express: with his Madrid Masters shield last October 21st and this Paris Masters victory, their head to head match up is even at eight wins apiece. Federer (still) ends 2007 as world no. 1 – for the fourth year in a row; hence, consecutive loses earn him a place among world headlines. (Photo above courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
But the sadder news, not only for Swiss fans, but tennis followers the word over and me in particular, is Martina Hingis’s announcement of her retirement for the second time.
Whereas her 2002 departure from competition was prompted by a string of injuries that saw her performance wobble with inconsistencies, her November 1st announcement was brought forth in part by the fact (which she is contesting) that she tested positive for cocaine use at the 2007 Wimbledon championship. Apparently, she underwent mandatory post-match urine test after her third round loss to Laura Granville where both the original sample and the back-up sample turned out positive.
Martina vehemently denies ever using drugs. She says she opted to reveal the information to the media and at the same time announce her retirement rather than have her status and performance as a player be shrouded in doubt over the next two years- the length of time the International Tennis Federation (ITF) will likely put her competitive tennis career on hold due to this doping violation. The ITF is said to have a rule wherein they disclose nothing about ongoing appeals to doping charges while the latter is ongoing; information about the circumstances of said appeal will only be made public if the player is exonerated. Meanwhile, Martina cannot play as the appeal is being heard hence her decision to retire. (Photo above courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, MICHELE LIMINA/AFP/Getty Images)
In my mind of minds, I do not believe that the Swiss Miss ever took drugs. I am heartened by the fact that her legal team found several irregularities in the system that examined her for drug use which may have rendered the results suspect. It is also interesting to note that a parallel examination she submitted herself to- this time hair samples were used- yielded no evidence of drug use.
I remember the time when we would stay up late to watch her play in Grand Slam events. Given the huge time difference between Europe and the Philippines, we would eagerly watch her in the wee hours of the morning, Manila time. Even in that early part of her career- 1998, 1999 perhaps- we were already enamored with her tennis tactics. Her quick thinking on-court earned her the privilege of being one of the newer torch bearers of women’s tennis when the like of Navratilova, Graf, and Seles hung their rackets already.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Martina Hingis or is utterly unconvinced of her tennis prowess, the Wiki entry about her is an excellent resource.
I wish for her the same strength of character and spirit that earned her 15 Grand Slam titles and 43 singles titles- en route to a staggering 548-133 win-loss card. She’s not Laureus Sports Awards’ Comeback Player of the Year for nothing.
It’s Hingis vs the doping charge, with the score standing at 7-6, 6-6. I’ll watch with the keenest interest how this match up will unfold.