Hingis Puts Mental Beat-Down on Sharapova; Federer Skips Davis Cup

Posted on February 4, 2006

Hingis Rattles Sharapova to Gain WTA Tokyo Final

Former No. 1 Martina Hingis put a mental and physical beat-down on teenage former No. 1 Maria Sharapova Saturday in the semifinals at the WTA stop in Tokyo, making good on her earlier verbal slights against the Russian with a 6-3, 6-1 dismissal in their first-ever meeting.

"It feels like being back in time," said Hingis after the match, turning on her high-beam smile. "I knew I still had some game in me. You just have to start believing. I believe I still can play really good tennis. It took me three years to recharge my body and my brain. This week I've shown a better game than at the Australian Open. I'm improving with every tournament."

Hingis may have mentally won the match back in January when she told the media, "It's always been, 'I wonder what she's got, Sharapova?' Because I don't see that she's got something that special. Her serve is great, her groundstrokes, but I can't tell until I play her what makes her so exceptional."

Hingis' maligned second serve held up during the match, with the Swiss winning 11 of 15 points, and her strategy to move the at-times-gawky Sharapova from corner to corner paid dividends. Hingis even ended the first set on her beefed-up serve with an ace.

"It was very competitive in the first set," Hingis said. "I think we were both feeling each other out, seeing how each other played, and what shots we chose to make. I was lucky to break her in the eighth game and I hit an ace to take the set. I was very happy about that and I think that gave me a lot of confidence to go on to win the match."

The second set was a rout and Sharapova even resorted to delaying tactics, turning her back when Hingis was about to serve, but nothing could stop the Swiss juggernaut.

"When I look back, there were chances I could have taken and didn't," Sharapova said, deflecting the loss by saying she wasn't that into the match, losing the mental battle. "In the second set especially, I didn't have my usual fight to the end. It wasn't any particular point, but a little here and there made a big difference."

In the final the unseeded Hingis will face No. 2 seed Elena Dementieva, who won the battle of Russian friends with a marathon 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 4 seed Anastasia Myskina.

"I felt like it was a very close match," said Dementieva, who broke serve midway through the final set and ran out the win. "We know each other very well and it was just a question of a couple of points who was going to be the winner today."

Dementieva will compete for her first Tier I title on the WTA Tour, with her four career victories all at the Tier II level.

"I'm really looking forward to playing Martina tomorrow," Dementieva said, with the Russian winning two of her four career meetings with Hingis before the Swiss retired three years ago. "This is my first final in Japan and to play Hingis is an unbelievable opportunity for me. For me, she is the No. 1 player in the world. She's playing better now than when she retired three years ago."

Agassi Bumped by G-Lo at ATP Delray Beach

Spaniard Guillermo "G-Lo" Garcia-Lopez entered the ATP stop in Delray Beach with only one win in his first two events of 2006, but his play Friday in Florida was enough to unseat top seed Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-2 for a berth in the semifinals.

"I ran into a guy that hits the ball as clean as he does, which exaggerates how uncomfortable I feel," said Agassi, still dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of the Australian Open. "He was outhitting me. I wasn't reacting well to the ball. He hits a heavy ball and a big forehand return."

Garcia-Lopez served at 5-2 in the first set but was broken after a nervous game.

"I was 40-love up on my serve, just one point to win the first set," Garcia-Lopez said. "But I was a little bit nervous, I did two or three double faults. It's normal. In front of you is Andre Agassi."

The 35-year-old Agassi hopes his geriatric act comes together in the coming months while his ankle returns to 100 percent.

"I haven't gotten my game together," Agassi said. "It will take matches and time to work that out. I can't realistically come here and expect to feel that comfortable on the court. It was a great experience to play here. I hope it makes sense to come back."

Also into the semis Friday were No. 4 seed Tommy Haas, defeating No. 7 Gilles Muller 6-3, 6-2, No. 8 Vince Spadea thrilling his South Florida fans with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Korean Hyung-Taik Lee, and defending champ No. 3 Xavier "X-Man" Malisse who defeated No. 6 Florian Mayer from a set down.

"My return was good today," Spadea said. "I've lost to (Lee) twice but this was a good sign to me that my game is improving. I'm hitting the ball close to or as good as ever. This was the best I've served this week. I try to rise to this occasion here in Delray. It would be a dream if I could win this."

Haas and Spadea (the German leads their career meetings 5-1) will face off Saturday not before 3 p.m. (EST), while Garcia-Lopez plays Malisse (first meeting) not before 7:00 p.m., with both matches on The Tennis Channel in the U.S.

"You never know what to expect when you play against Vince," Haas said. "He's a streaky player. He loves to go for the returns at times and as soon as he sees an opportunity he goes for it. When the ball goes in, he's tough."

Chilean Gonzo v Massu Showdown at ATP Vina del Mar

Chileans Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu set up a Saturday claycourt semifinal meeting with wins Friday at the ATP stop in Vina del Mar, but not without struggle at their homecountry tour stop.

The No. 5-seeded Massu was forced to come back from a set down in a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 win over unseeded Spanish qualifier Carlos Cuadrado, while the No. 2-seeded Gonzalez held on for a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 8 seed Boris Pashanski.

"I didn't play well in the first and second sets, I was nervous and lost my concentration," Massu said. "He played very well, but toward the end he appeared very tired."

Also into the semis were No. 3 seed Jose Acasuso (d. Friedl from a set down), and unseeded Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (d. (6) Montanes in three).

Saturday's semifinal match-ups are (2) Gonzalez vs. (5) Massu (Gonzo leads career meetings 2-1), and (3) Acasuso vs. Ramirez Hidalgo (tied 1-1).

Ljubicic, Henman Headed for Final at ATP Zagreb

The lone seeded player remaining in the quarterfinals at the ATP stop in Zagreb, No. 1 seed Ivan Ljubicic eased into the semifinals Friday as the overwhelming tournament favorite with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Brit Tim Henman was the biggest name of the challengers into the semis, with a comprehensive defeat of Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4.

"It's been a while," Henman wrote on his website of almost a year passing since his last semifinal. "Last year I made quite a few quarterfinals at the beginning of the year but I wasn't able to take advantage of any of those opportunities."

Also into the semis were Novak Djokovic winning an all-Serb contest with qualifier Ilia Bozoljac 6-2, 6-3, and Austrian qualifier Stefan Koubek counterpunching Croat "Dr." Ivo Karlovic to death 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 6-3.

Matching up in the Saturday semis are Henman vs. (Q) Koubek (the Brit leads the career encounters 3-2, losing the last two), and (1) Ljubicic vs. Djokovic (first meeting).

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Roger Federer
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