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Hingis tries to turn back the clock to US Open glory days

sports Updated: Aug 29, 2007 05:21 IST
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Martina Hingis considers herself a better tennis player today than in 1997 when she won three Grand Slam titles, even though the former teen star knows she is a longshot for another US Open title.

"The game evolves all the time so you have to think you are a better player today," Hingis said. "Maybe some things, the experience kicks in. I used to recover faster when I was younger. I just really played a lot at that time.

"It's not like that anymore. I really have to tell myself differently now."

The Swiss 16th seed defeated France's Mathilde Johansson 6-0, 6-3 Tuesday to reach the second round at the year's final Slam event. She has already equaled her result from 2006, when she began her comeback after a 2002 retirement.

"I have nothing to lose," Hingis said. "Every match is a good match. Every victory is a good one. I can only win at this tournament, only get better."

Hingis, who turns 27 next month, won Wimbledon and the US and Australian Opens in 1997, missing a Slam sweep when she lost to Iva Majoli in the French Open final.

"I was in control but all of a sudden it slipped away," Hingis said. "That's one of the only things (I would change). Many other things went my way. Some didn't. It kind of balances out. I'm more relaxed about it today."

At times, Hingis can almost taste the memory of her five Slam titles and seven runner-up finishes from 1997 to 2002, as with her run to the Australian Open quarter-finals this year in quest for a fourth Melbourne crown.

But there are moments the glory days seem an eternity away.

"Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes like a lifetime," Hingis said. "When you wake up in the morning and feel really good, you feel like you've been on the tour forever.

"It has been 10 years. I know that. Really. I had time off. I had a good comeback last year. I try to bring the best, not think about what has happened.

"I know nobody can take that away from me. You have to keep evolving, keep trying to get better."

When she sees the latest generation of teen stars, Hingis recalls her younger days and tries to take inspiration.

"I see the freshness and hunger, how I used to be," Hingis said. "When you get older, priorities change. You look at life differently. There are days you think that was a nice lifestyle when you train every day like six hours.

"But then on the other hand, right now I feel like I don't want to miss a minute of being out there, being able to compete."

Hingis won at Tokyo in January but was only 9-8 since thanks in part to a nagging hip injury.

"The more you did, you made it worse because then you started compensating," she said. "I saw a few doctors. That helped. I started recovering."

Hingis, who next plays 106th-ranked French qualifier Pauline Parmentier, cannot face a rival seed until the fourth round, when Russian fourth seed and 2004 US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova could await.

"I'm very pleased. I hope I can continue this way. The way I moved today, I think it looked quite all right the way I played," Hingis said. "I definitely played a good match. I'll hopefully work my way into the tournament."