PHILADELPHIA (Sports Network) -
For those of us who are baffled by the WTA Rankings, how can the "Swiss Miss," Martina Hingis, still be ranked No. 1 in the world?
Hingis, who recently failed to represent her adopted country of Switzerland in the 2000 Summer Games, is titleless in her last seven Grand Slam events. That, of course, is not the case for fellow stars Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport.
The Swiss racquet woman suffered a heartbreaking semifinal loss against Williams at the U.S. Open, coming within two points of a fourth straight final in Flushing before dropping four straight games, and the match, against the scalding-hot American.
True, Hingis has secured six titles and one co-championship this season, but the currently third-ranked Williams has trumped the Swiss star, with three "major" wins among her six titles in 2000, including gold in Sydney.
You're probably familiar with Venus. You know, the reigning Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Olympic champion who is still listed third in the rankings?
Hingis has reached nine finals this year, but her lone appearance in a Grand Slam title match resulted in a straight-set loss to the currently second-ranked Davenport, who had won five straight matches against Hingis at one point before losing to the "Swiss Miss" in the Miami final back in April. The now-20-year-old Hingis hasn't hoisted "major" hardware since capturing the Australian Open 21 months ago.
And what's with that "Swiss Miss" moniker? The native Slovakian plays for the neutral nation, but she's about as "Swiss" as yours truly (life-long Pennsylvanian).
Although Hingis is women's tennis' answer to Garry Gasparov (the celebrated world chess champion), displaying caginess, anticipation, and an uncanny ability to use the court like a chessboard, her smarts are not enough right now against the overpowering Venus and Davenport. Hingis has been mostly unable to prevail in her recent matches with the slugging Americans.
Hingis had won at least one Grand Slam event from 1997-99, including capturing three of the four Slams at the tender age of 17 in '97, but that streak came to an end this season, as Davenport handled her in the Australian Open final; Mary Pierce rolled at Roland Garros -- the only Grand Slam Hingis hasn't won; and Williams shined at the Wimbledon and U.S. Open fortnights.
The Swiss star, the WTA's leading money winner three years running, is a solid 62-9 in 16 tourneys in the new millennium, but she's a combined 1-4 against Venus and Davenport this year. Venus is a perfect 2-0 versus Hingis in 2000, while Davenport is 2-1 against the current "No. 1."
And in case you're interested tennis fans, Hingis is a flawless 2-0 this season against Russian sensation Anna Kournikova, the most marketable female tennis player in the world who has yet to capture a professional singles title.
Venus, who you'd think would be No. 1 in the rankings, has won her last six tournaments in succession, boasting an unstoppable 32- match winning streak in the process.
I've placed Hingis third in The Sports Network Tennis Rankings, behind Venus and Lindsay. I mean, seriously, when's the last time Hingis was favored to win a tournament that also featured Williams and/or Davenport? Hingis just titled in Germany over the weekend, but she was the top seed in an event staged without Venus or Davenport.
Hingis, a brilliant 362-74 since joining the ladies' circuit in the fall of 1994, has tailed off after reaching three of the four Grand Slam finals in 1999. Is she distracted by her new boyfriend, Swedish tennis star Magnus Norman, or are Venus and Davenport just the better performers out there?
Great tennis aside, many of the sport's aficionados have questioned Hingis' character as a champion. She seems to have a passion for petulant outbursts and sulking when things are not going her way. Not very becoming of a champ. Many also view her as being cocky and obnoxious. And I must say, it's hard to disagree with that sentiment.
Finishing as the year-end No. 1 in both 1997 and 1999, it's probably safe to call Hingis one of the all-time greats (33 titles). She's just not No. 1 anymore, despite what the rankings say.