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Poise helps Hingis gain star status FRENCH OPEN


PARIS -- She sits quietly amid the chaos in the players' lounge, oblivious to Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf standing two feet away. Martina Hingis has more important things to think about.

Her good-luck, gold charm necklace has broken and she is in a hurry to fix it during a rain delay in her match against second-round foe Mariaan DeSwardt.

She tends to the necklace as intently as she hits her ground strokes. Still, as she talks to her mother and a young male hitting partner, Hingis, 14, looks more like a typical high school student than the sport's newest star.

With Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles still on sabbatical, Hingis has come along at the right time. She's been nicknamed "Miracle Kid" by the press, and fans have embraced her as they did Chris Evert.

On the court, Hingis, who is from Switzerland, possesses Evert's composure and grace. She also mirrors Evert's instinctive ability to select the right shots.

Her footwork and timing compensate for modest speed and muscle. She keeps her opponents off balance on court with well-disguised drop shots and moonballs.

"They call me 'miracle kid,' but I hate being called that," Hingis said. "I'm human and sometimes get nervous too. If I get really [irritated], I'll bounce my racket. But basically I have always been quiet on the court because I'm concentrating so much on my tennis. It's just my nature to stay calm and let my opponent get worried. I don't think that I have played my best tennis here yet. I know that I can play much better, but I'm relaxed here and feeling very good."

Since turning pro last October, she has jumped to No. 23 in the rankings. She has also squelched suspicion that she would become the next prima donna on tour.

Unlike Capriati and her parents, who seemed to cause more commotion off the court than on, Hingis goes about her business quietly. "When I came on the pros, everyone was saying that I was this wonder kid and they didn't know what to expect from me," Hingis said.

"They thought that I would be like another Capriati. Now, they have been able to see for themselves that I am nothing like Capriati and that my situation is completely different. I am definitely starting to feel like part of the players and part of this circuit."

But she is still adjusting to the extensive traveling of the circuit. At the Australian Open this year, she complained about being homesick and tired after three weeks in Melbourne. Since then, she has played only European events.

"I feel much better in Paris than I did in Melbourne," she said. "I've won the junior event here and am familiar with the surroundings. I would like to play more tournaments this year, but the [WTA Tour] rule only allows me to play 12. So I chose mostly ones in Europe so I can be near home."

Hingis faces Lindsay Davenport, the United States' top female player, in the third round. Seven years her senior, Davenport is impressed by the youngest competitor in the draw.

"None of us have gotten to know her too well," said Davenport, who trounced Hingis in Australia earlier this year. "But you can tell by the way she plays that she is very smart.

"All the top players are thrilled that she's moved up in the rankings so she'll get seeded and we won't have to play her in the early rounds anymore," Davenport said.

Although Hingis has a poise beyond her years on court, she acts her age when at home in Trubbach, Switzerland. Instead of spending hours in the gym lifting weights, Hingis rides her horse, eats Chinese or Mexican food and loves watching MTV.

"Sometimes I feel older than I am, sometimes my own age. I am a star sign in astrology like the picture on the charm of my necklace. It means that I am very balanced and quiet, but I also can be very strong and funny."



Adrian Voinea, Romania, vs. Boris Becker (3), Germany; Michael Chang (6), Henderson, Nev., vs. Tomas Carbonell, Spain; Sergi Bruguera (7), Spain, vs. Brett Steven, New Zealand; Jacco Eltingh, Netherlands, vs. Magnus Larsson (10), Sweden; Arnaud Boetsch, France, vs. Michael Stich (12), Germany; Todd Martin (14), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., vs. Andrei Chesnokov, Russia.


Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1), Spain, vs. Beate Reinstadler, Austria; Mary Pierce (3), France, vs. Florencia Labat, Argentina; Chanda Rubin, Lafayette, La., vs. Jana Novotna (5), Czech Republic; Martina Hingis, Switzerland, vs. Lindsay Davenport (7), Murrieta, Calif.; Kimiko Date (9), Japan, vs. Katarzyna Nowak, Poland; Shi-Ting Wang, Taiwan, vs. Iva Majoli (12), Croatia; Anna Smashnova, Israel, vs. Amy Frazier (14), Rochester Hills, Mich.

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