More than a year into her 'comeback' from three years off the tour due to injuries, Martina Hingis would like everyone to stop using that dreaded word.
"Comeback is long over," Hingis mused Tuesday after her 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss to Kim Clijsters in an Australian Open quarterfinal.
"It was a comeback tour to every tournament I played in. I think for me it was after the Australia trip and Tokyo. I knew what I was facing. I knew what I was capable of. I proceeded my way to do things."
On Tuesday, she tried to do things her way keep the ball in play, force her competitor to make mistakes, take the point, the game, the set, the match. Lobs, drops, cross-courts, hit the corners.
"I always tried to give her a different look at the ball because I think that's why she made so many errors," Hingis said of Clijsters' 62 unforced errors.
"That's my game. That's how I win my matches. That's why I was up early in the second set, with a set behind my back. (But) there you have to just be able to just keep going because she's not going to hand it to you."
Hingis used the Australian Open as her comeback tournament last year after her lengthy absence due to foot and ankle injuries. Unseeded, she lost to Clijsters in the quarterfinals; this year, seeded sixth, she lost to Hingis in the quarterfinals.
That might be enough to suggest that Hingis, who moved to No. 7 in the WTA Tour rankings by the end of 2006 and won two tournaments, hasn't shown a lot of improvement. But Hingis, now 4-5 in head-to-heads against Clijsters, disagrees.
"I had the best chances today to beat her from all the matches we've played in the past," said Hingis.
"I came out stronger and I had my chances. It was definitely disappointing. I felt like I was winning the match and I had all the things in my hands."
From there, the questioning in her post-match media conference strayed from current events to a more familiar query: the comeback.
And Hingis, who has five Grand Slam singles titles, three of those at the Australian Open, appears to have had enough of them.
When asked how the Hingis of 1997 when she won her first Grand Slam here would have fared Tuesday against Clijsters, she said she couldn't remember.
"That's really a long time ago, 10 years is 10 years," said Hingis. "The game moves on. I think I've gotten better over the years. I have strengths and weaknesses. Sports just moves on."
And then, sounding frustrated, added: "I don't know. I mean, what do you want to hear from me?"
And next: how to quantify how much better she is now than she was 10 years ago. She bites her lip and says "I definitely think I'm a better player."
And, for good measure, another: compare her play on the tour then and now.
"Before I was more fearless," she says. "When I was 17, 18, those shots I would just make at 30-all, not missing a return, just give the opponent a chance to miss, reports AP.
"Today I'm sort of too tentative instead of, 'OK, go for it'. I'm too nice."
Hingis laughs at the thought. The comeback phase is over, she realizes, but all the questions about it are not.
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