Cédric Pioline

Excerpt of Pete Sampras‘ autobiography A champion’s mind:

Todd Woodbridge had a career singles run at Wimbledon in 1997, making it all the way to the semifinals. Although he is one of the all-time doubles greats, Todd had trouble translating his skill to singles. He had geat technique and finesse, and he was very crafty. But he didn’t make a lot of power and he didn’t move great (in doubles, he only had to worry about half the court). Todd’s weaknesses played right into my strengths, and I had little trouble with him. Once again, I found myself facing Cédric Pioline in the final.

I felt for Cédric because even though he had played a previous Grand Slam final against me at the US Open, this was different – no tournament feels as historic as Wimbledon. There was no pressure on him; I was the prohibitive favorite. His best chance lay in getting out there and just letting it rip – what did he have to lose? But that’s easier said than done.

Once again, as in our US Open final, Cédric seemed overwhelmed. I won the first two sets, giving up just six games. I was on top of my game and in touch with the Gift. It seemed like just minutes after the start of the match, yet there I was, serving at 5-4 in the third. I found myself thinking, Wow this is too easy. I don’t mean to be disrespectful toward Cédric. It was just that the match was on my racket, far sooner and with far less difficulty than I expected.

I had this flash as I got within two points of the match: Man, this is so big, what I’m doing – this is it. Wimbledon. It’s huge … And I was immediately overcome by this feeling of insecurity. I panicked, like someone having an anxiety attack. I thought, Is it really supposed to be so easy? Am I missing something here? Is this all going to turn out to be some kind of joke or hoax, on me? In a very real, visceral way, it was like a great dream, the kind in which you feel omnipotent, but a part of you knows that at any moment you might wake up and destroy the illusion.

But I didn’t wake. I coasted across the finish line in straight sets, giving up a total of ten games. It was fitting end to one of the least eventful or significant of my Wimbledon tournaments. I didn’t have any epic battles or showdowns with career rivals. Yet my performance at Wimbledon in 1997 may have been my best, in terms of having full control of my game and using it to maximum advantage for the longest sustained period. One stat said it all: I served 118 games, and held 116 times.”

Last Sunday in Miami, Martina Hingis captured her 38th doubles title, her first. 17 years ago in Miami she was crowned the new Queen of tennis. Between those two dates? Lots of highs and lows, trophies and retirements.

Summary of an article published in French sports daily L’Equipe, translated by Tennis Buzz:

By sweeping Monica Seles in final at Key Biscayne 6-2 6-1 in only 44 minutes, Martina Hingis reached the number one ranking at age 16 1/2. A record of precocity that still stands to this day.
Surpassed in all areas of the game, Monica Seles didn’t know how to counter Martina Hingis’ tactical intelligence. The stronger she hit the ball, the quicker it came back at her.

Despite her precocity, her accession to the top was ineluctable, scheduled a long time ago. Scheduled since her birth on September 30, 1980 in Kosice in the then Czechoslovakia? Perhaps not, but her mother Melanie Molitor put a lot of effort for her daughter to succeed. This former good player named her daughter Martina in honor of Martina Navratilova and put her on tennis courts at the age of 3. Two years later she entered her first tournament and in 1987 mother and daughter exiled in Switzerland.

Her progress and exceptional talent attracted agents, sponsors and medias and she hasn’t deceived them. She became junior world champion in 1994 and turned pro the same year.
Her arrival on the circuit at such an early age was criticized by many people who feared Hingis would follow the same path as troubled teen prodigy Jennifer Capriati.

In 1996, Hingis reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the semifinals at the US Open (loss to Graf 5-7 3-6) and finished her season with another loss to Steffi Graf in the Masters final at Madison Garden 0-6 in the fifth set.
1997 was her biggest year (71 wins, 5 defeats). She captured her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne against Mary Pierce and also won in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, Key Biscayne and Hilton Head. And just before the clay court tournament in Hamburg she fell off a horse. Injured, she didn’t play any clay court tournament before Roland Garros, where she lost the final to Iva Majoli.
She then won at Wimbledon (victory over Jana Novotna 2-6 6-3 6-3) and the US Open (victory over Venus Williams 6-0 6-4).
Even though she won two more Grand Slam titles after this fantastic 1997 season (Australian Open in 1998 and 1999), the Swiss was no longer as dominant when approaching the 2000s.
Overpowered by the Williams sisters and bothered by recurring injuries, she dropped out of the top 10 at the end of 2002, for the first time since 1995. She announced her retirement in May 2003, at only 22, after 209 weeks at the top ranking.

She came back in 2006, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros but in 2007 she tested positive to cocaine at Wimbledon. Suspended for two years by the ITF, she retired again.
Since then she came back to the courts to coach or play a few doubles tournaments, but she was also often on the front page of gossip magazines.

Sampras - Moya, 1997 Australian Open

Excerpt of Pete Sampras autobiography A champion’s mind:

“I won the Australian Open to launch my 1997 campaign, a pleasant surprise given the way I felt about the tournament. I took extra pride in the win for a couple of reasons.
In the round of 16, I played Dominik Hrbaty in a five-set war that I eventually won 6-4. The on-court temperature during that match hit 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, with the extreme heat policy in effect, they would have stopped the match, or closed the roof on Rod Laver Arena. Given what had happened at the US Open just months earlier in my match with Alex Corretja, I was glad to survive that test of stamina in the infernal Aussie heat.

It was also encouraging for me that while the Australian major is a hard-court tournament, in 97, it was dominated by slow-court players. After Hrbaty, I beat, in order, Al Costa, Thomas Muster, and Carlos Moya, to take the title. Each of those guys had won – or would win – Roland Garros. That gave me hope – maybe my fate at Roland Garros, the one slam that continued to elude me, wasn’t sealed quite yet.”