| Martina Hingis after her semi-final win over Sania Mirza at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Pluto was still a planet when Martina Hingis became world No.1 in 1997. She reigned there for 209 weeks, 73 of which were consecutive, before fading into oblivion.
Pluto may have lost its status as a planet now, but the high-priestess of modern tennis is moving back into her orbit. If Saturdayís performance is any indication, then itís only a matter of time before she meets her destiny.
In what words do you describe Saturdayís much-anticipated showdown to those who were unfortunate enough to have missed it' Complete domination' Annihilation' Mastery' Wizardry' An artist at work' Awe-inspiring' Anti-climactic' Ordinary' Below-par'
All adjectives in the English vocabulary fall woefully short in reflecting the black magic that Martina Hingis created for 58 minutes. She ended up mesmerising not only the 5000-strong crowd, but also Sania Mirza herself!
The world No.70, a no mean player, was completely outplayed, outrun, outgunned, outthought and outwitted during her 1-6, 0-6 loss at the semi-finals of the WTA Sunfeast Open on Saturday.
Itís not that she played too badly, just that the top seed was too good. Period.
Both players started slowly. When Hingis and Sania both went with their service in the first two games of the first set, no one would have thought that it was the only game the Indian ace would win in the entire match.
It is then that the Swiss decided to create more space between herself and the baseline, launching forward into the net and becoming more creative with her game. She varied her pace with every shot, kissed the baselines with ridiculous accuracy. It wasnít long before Sania, put under pressure at 15-40, hit long and Hingis went ahead 3-1.
The five-time Grand Slam champion explored every possible angle with her shots and peppered the Sania backhand. One scorching forehand winner apart, there was nothing to write home about the Indian, who fell into the trap of hitting harder and harder only to make a lot of unforced errors.
One thing a true champion does is to second-guess the adversary. The challenger is then reduced to doing exactly what the master wants her to. Saniaís strong points are scorching groundstrokes, and on Saturday, she hit them precisely where Hingis wanted her to, something which Sania admitted during the post match press conference.
So with monotonous regularity, Hingis broke Sania in the sixth game and held her serve in the seventh to clinch the first set 6-1 in 25 minutes.
In the very beginning of the second set, the fifth seed seemed to be suffering from a loss of focus. She played a very loose game and handed the initiative to the Swiss Miss, having suffered a service break and going down 0-1.
On Friday night, after beating Tamarine Tanasugarn in the quarter finals, Hingis said she hoped to put her first serves in against Sania. She didnít do a bad job at 63 per cent in the second set.
The fourth game was perhaps the most important one of the match. Not only did it see the Indian ace getting her very first break point, she actually won four. Each time, after a sublime rally to ensure that she went ahead, Sania inexplicably made the most senseless of errors. Five deuces later, Hingis held serve. The match was virtually over.
The fifth, where she broke Sania again, and the sixth, where she converted her very first match point, were mere formalities.
Incidentally, former Team India captain Sourav Ganguly, resplendent in a blue shirt, did turn up as he promised, but even his presence failed to inspire Sania.
In the other semi-final, unseeded Olga Poutchkova set up a title showdown with the Swiss Miss, beating Uzbek qualifier Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-4.
The blonde Russian, quarter finalist in Bali before making her debut appearance in the city, broke Tulyaganova, a former world No. 16, in the second, fourth and 10th games to clinch the first set in 44 minutes. In the second set, which lasted an hour, the world No. 97 broke her opponent in the fourth and the decisive 10th to clinch the match.
If it is of any consolation, Sania and Liezel Huber later entered the doubles final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Angelique Widjaja and Hana Sromova. They will meet Yuliana Fedak and Yulia Beygelzimer on Sunday.