MELBOURNE, Australia – The banner in the stands read “Monica and Martina are leaner, meaner and keener.”
The Seles-Hingis team proved it against Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Dokic, winning 6-3, 6-3 at the Australian Open Saturday.
World No. 1 Hingis dashed and darted across the net for deft returns, and No. 4 Seles unleashed a blizzard of withering groundstrokes. Often, the balls came flying back at them.
“It was very high quality, very high intensity,” said Hingis, whose critical net play was a sharp contrast with the baseline assaults of the other power hitters, most notably her partner.
“We both had to play well, otherwise, it’s just bang, bang. I was the only one who wasn’t hitting the ball hard, but I was telling Monica: ‘OK, OK, I got to get to the net. I have to cross a lot and make them think and play.”’
It was only a second-round match, but what a group of marquee names with divergent and dramatic histories.
Hingis, with five Grand Slam titles at 20; Seles, a nine-time Slam winner who took a two-year absence after being stabbed courtside by a fan in 1993; Capriati, on a comeback after overcoming adolescent turmoil; and Dokic, whose often belligerent father has helped shroud her career in controversy.
Dokic, No. 26 in the world, was the only player on the court who was unseeded in the singles draw — she lost to world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport in the first round — and was the weakest player in the doubles match. Some of her lobs sailed long, and she appeared reluctant to intercept at net.
Still, she often held her own, as when she lobbed over Seles’ head, and rushed the net and hit Hingis’ return into the open court midway through the second set. The point helped break Hingis’ service game.
Capriati, who at 14 in 1990 was the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon, pounded from the baseline and was equally aggressive at net. She questioned line calls with vigor, and when a baby in the stands wailed for too long, she yelled in frustration: “Baby!”
Hingis and Seles, who beat No. 1 seeds and defending champions Rennae Stubbs and Lisa Raymond in the first round, are unseeded because they have just started playing together. Hingis recently ended a partnership with Russia’s Anna Kournikova.