There’s No Chilling Effect on Hingis’ Savvy Drill

Times Staff Writer

Perhaps it was a tribute to the pull of former champion Martina Hingis that the stadium court at Indian Wells didn’t look like a ghost town with tumble weeds rolling through when she finally got out there and easily won her second-round match at the Pacific Life Open.

Tennis weather it was not. There can be chilly scenes of winter, cutting wind and rain, around Indian Wells. But it is usually verboten once this tennis tournament starts and you almost wonder whether some deal was cut with a higher authority.

Not so on Friday.

Hingis eased the pain of the shivering spectators with efficiency, and her usual creativity, needing only 58 minutes to beat qualifier Camille Pin of France, 6-1, 6-3. She will play Sybille Bammer of Austria in the third round.


This was the first match Hingis has played in the United States since she decided to return to the tour for a full schedule this year. Since starting in Australia in January after leaving the sport in late 2002 because of injuries to her feet, she has reached one final and two semifinals. And at her first Slam of 2006, the Australian Open, Hingis lost to Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals in three sets.

Naturally, curiosity has remained at a high level about Hingis, who received a wild card here. Which is why spectators put on parkas and huddled under blankets to watch her play a relatively non-threatening opponent in about 50-degree weather on what had been a rain-plagued day.

It looked more like a college football crowd in September than a gathering at a tennis tournament.

“The first three games it was a little chilly out, but after that it got a little better, warmer,” Hingis said.

There was a definite sense of familiarity. So much about Hingis, 25, seemed unchanged -- she broke Pin’s serve in the second game of the match with a drop-shot winner, and she displayed her usual savvy court sense, straight out of the late 1990s.

And Friday? Hingis hit three aces, double-faulted three times and had 28 winners. Her fastest serve hit 108 mph. Afterward, Hingis was asked by the on-court announcer about her motivation in returning, and she didn’t waste any time in answering, “To play in front of a crowd like tonight,” Hingis said.

Then there’s the side benefit of not being the hunted one.

“Maybe I have this little underdog thing right now,” Hingis said. “You’ve seen that with other athletes. It’s nice to feel the same way. I have nothing to lose. I mean, at least I can take advantage of the crowds on my side.”

Considering her opponent, Pin, was ranked No. 118 and has never won a title, it wasn’t the most difficult of challenges. Better and more accurate tests will come later here, maybe in the fourth round against second-seeded Davenport, who won her second-round match earlier in the day before the rains came, beating Ashley Harkleroad, 6-0, 6-0.

Inclement weather, and more is expected today, backed up the schedule. Among those winning in the second round were Russians No. 3 Maria Sharapova and No. 5 Anastasia Myskina. On the men’s side, Marat Safin of Russia and Andy Murray of Great Britain won easily.

Also winning were U.S. wild-card entrants, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. For Querrey, who defeated Bobby Reynolds, 6-3, 7-5, in the first round, it was his first victory on the main ATP tour. The 18-year-old, a senior at Thousand Oaks High School, will play James Blake today in the second round.


Today’s matches

Featured matches at the Pacific Life Open:


Starting at 10 a.m.

* Sam Querrey vs. James Blake

* Elena Dementieva, Russia, vs. Anastasiya Yakimova, Belarus

* Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium, vs. Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria

* Carlos Moya, Spain, vs. Marat Safin, Russia

Not before 7 p.m.

* Andy Roddick vs. Jose Acasuso, Argentina