I've been thinking about this a lot, and I have to say, I'm not a believer in Martina Hingis' "second coming." Sure, she's done very well for herself thus far in 2006 and will definitely crack the Top 10 before or after the French Open. Ultimately, however, she's going to fall short of her true hope, adding to her existing Grand Slam singles glory. Here's why...
When Martina burst onto the scene as a wide-eyed teenager in 1996, the competition was somewhat stiff, but not extremely overpowering. Sure Graf, Seles, Sanchez Vicario, Davenport, Martinez and Novotna were there. But Graf was injury-prone. Seles was too slow to hurt Hingis on every point. Sanchez Vicario and Martinez had little with which to hurt Hingis. Davenport was very slow and had no belief. And Novotna's only hope was on a grass court. Basically, it was the perfect time for someone like Hingis to arrive on the WTA stage -- and she took it by storm, grabbing #1 from Graf and racking up five Grand Slam singles titles in three years.
Then a few things happened. A few things named Lindsay, Venus, Serena, and Jennifer. After Hingis' win at the 1999 Australian Open, 13 of the next 15 Slams were won by those four women (Lindsay 2, Venus 4, Serena 4, Jennifer 3), with the other two going to Graf (99 French) and Pierce (2000 French). Martina simply was being overpowered and outplayed, and it was impossible for her to play the "let your opponent beat themselves" game successfully in the last three rounds of the Slams.
Due to these beatings and injuries, Hingis hung her head and hung up her racquets after six years on tour.
Now she's back in 2006, refreshed physically and mentally, her game having changed very little other than a bit more topspin on her forehand and a bit more muscle on her biceps. But there are bigger problems now. Problems named Henin, Clijsters, Mauresmo, Sharapova, Pierce, and Dementieva -- not to mention the old guard that kicked Hingis out before is still around, albeit in varying degrees.
Yes, she'll beat 95% of the players on tour, which is why she'll easily make the Top 10, but she's still going to have huge problems beating three of these players in a row as is required at most Grand Slams. You just can't imagine that these Petrova-like results of making Slam quarters and a few semis is going to be okay with Hingis.
It's already written on her face during losses like the one she took to Sharapova last week in IW. As she slams her racquet to the ground in disgust as balls speed by her on crucial points, I wonder: how long until she's back to the same place she was in 2002 -- the I can't take losing the same way all the time place?
My guess...two years max.