Sun Shines on Seles and Hingis

Eighth seed Monica Seles and third seed Martina Hingis looked cool under sunny skies in their cruisy second round victories over Zimbabwean Cara Black and German Greta Arn on Wednesday afternoon.

Four-time champion Seles sailed past Black in 53 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, while triple champ Hingis accounted for Arn 6-1 6-3 in 57 minutes on Vodafone Arena.

Seles came off the court beaming. “Finally we got some sunshine today,” she said. Crowds agreed, shedding layers and soaking up not only the sun but the star’s play.

Seles’ opponent Cara Black’s only chance against Seles was to move the hard-hitter around the court, taking advantage of her slower speed and a ‘double-hands on both sides’ hitting style. However, with Melbourne’s Rebound Ace playing particularly slow this year, Seles quickly began dictating from the back of the court. Seles is no stranger to controlling match play at the Open, dropping no more than two sets in the years she has won the event. Even more impressive, of her 41 matches played here, she has lost only 2.

Black, a doubles specialist who won seven titles last year with partner Elena Likhovtseva, quickly lost her first service game. Under the glare of an Australian sun and Seles’ sizzling groundstrokes, Black’s versatile net play was not enough to stop the Seles supernova which posted a 6-1 score in the first set.

Seles, who often countered Black’s volleys with her own brand of aggressive net play later spoke of the trouble with switching to new serve-volley tactics: “I cannot run…unfortunately my body will not allow me to do that.” Seles was referring to foot stress which had forced her to miss four months of play in the 2001 season. She put the stress down to “a gruelling schedule” with “no easy matches. That takes its toll, day in and day out.”

Nevertheless, volley Seles did, stretching to a 5-0 lead in the second set before Black managed to break her serve. Black sliced, diced and tried the whole kitchen sink but could not halt the Seles tide. Not even Black’s eccentricity: rolling each ball around on her stomach, could stop Seles’ swift victory.

When asked about her uncanny ability to progress easily through the opening rounds at Melbourne Park, Seles replied, “All I’m doing is trying to take it match at a time.”

Out on Vodafone Arena, Hingis made short work of the German qualifier Arn, who committed a lethal 31 unforced errors to Hingis’ seven. The former world number one is also well known for her ability to close out routine matches in the first round of a Grand Slam, will face German Barbara Rittner in the third round.

Hingis attributes her consistency to “just lots of tennis. Like four hours a day on the court…(though) I’m never going to be a power junkie.”

When asked to comment on the increasing number of injuries in the game she was hard but fair. “It comes with the game…you still have to sometimes go out there and play…sometimes business requires it…you just have to do it…you have to live with injury sometimes.”