Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997


Find out more about:

Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife

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Check out the top news stories of 1997

Age of Hingis dawns

She's the youngest champion of century

By Jim Greenidge, Globe Staff, 07/06/97

LONDON -- Jana Novotna held the large gold plate that goes to the winner of Wimbledon's women's singles championship, waving it around, allowing photographers to shoot her with it.

But it wasn't for long, as Martina Hingis actually won yesterday, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, on Centre Court -- Novotna had switched plates just for laughs.

Hingis, at 16 the youngest Wimbledon champion in 110 years, won her second Grand Slam of the year (she also won the Australian Open). Hingis is the top-ranked player in the world, the only loss on her 38-1 1997 record coming to Iva Majoli in the French Open.

``It's like a dream come true,'' said Hingis, who took away a check for $596,106, compared to $298,053 for Novotna.

``When I was leading, 5-3, in the third, I felt, `Come on, I've got to take it home,' and I got a chance.''

And there appear to be plenty more opportunities ahead for the No. 1 seeded Hingis, who had 18 passing winners as well as six return points.

``It might be that I am maybe too young to win this title,'' she said. ``I think when I stand there, there was a great atmosphere out there, the crowd was just unbelievable, and I feel this was one of my biggest chances to win this tournament.''

Playing in her second Wimbledon final, the other a three-set loss to Steffi Graf in 1993, the No. 3-ranked Novotna figured it would be a match in which Hingis's play would determine who won and who lost. ``I knew that I would not change my style, that I would be aggressive and keep coming in, and she was just a better player and that's what I told her right after the match,'' said Novotna. ``I knew that I would have to be extremely lucky and Martina would have to make a lot of mistakes for me to win.''

Here's how close the 1-hour-50-minute match was: Hingis scored 94 points to Novotna's 92.

Novotna had two breaks in the first set, the first game at love, as well as in the third at 15 to take a 3-0 edge. She took the first set in 22 minutes, with a serve-and-volley backhand crosscourt winner.

``I didn't play very bad in the first set, but she just didn't give me any opportunities to pass her,'' Hingis said. ``She was all over the net. I just didn't have the control. I was pretty shocked in the first set because she returned well.

``I just couldn't believe that she can play that great, especially on that surface, that she doesn't miss one ball.''

In the second set, Hingis grabbed the sixth game when Novotna's backhand volley was netted and Hingis ripped a forehand pass up the line that made it 4-2, Hingis.

And then, in the ninth game, a 16-point game, Novotna, who was hampered by a pulled abdominal muscle, had three break points, but Hingis was able to win it on her fifth set point, a forehand lob pass.

``I was always leading that set, always holding my serve,'' Hingis said. ``She started to serve a little easier to me, or just not from one to the other corner. And then I got the chances.''

Novotna wasn't feeling her best at the start of the second set, and she felt worse in the final set.

``I wasn't feeling comfortable and I wasn't sure if I could serve it out,'' Novotna said. ``I was getting a bit slower, even at the net. I felt very restricted, so it's just very unfortunate that something like this happened.

``I wasn't serving well, so she really stepped in and she started to take advantage of my second serve, and as the match progressed she started to feel more and more comfortable and she felt like she could really wear me down.''

Novotna, who was playing Hingis for the first time on grass, made only 57 percent of her serves, only 46 percent in the final set.

``You know, I'm the kind of player who never blames anything on something else,'' Novotna said. ``Every time I lose, it's more or less I blame myself than anything else, but I had no choice. I was coming into this match injured and I knew that I wasn't really sure how long it was going to last or how long I would last out there. But, definitely, the injury had something to do with it.''

There were six breaks in the final set, Hingis with four, one of them in the ninth game, winning on a backhand pass up the line, followed by a forehand crosscourt, another pass.

``It was like two different matches coming together, and both of us could win it,'' Hingis said. ``I mean, I just did it this time and she could be the winner next time. I had the better control over my balls than she did.''

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