WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- The 16-year-old kid was pitching a fit. Down 0-2 in the last set, her first service game lost, and here was Martina Hingis pouting, rolling her eyes, chucking her racket into the dust on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The racket was finished.
But the kid wasn't.
Hingis picked up a new racket and reeled off six of the last seven games to beat Jana Novotna, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and win the women's singles title at Wimbledon yesterday.
At 16 years, 9 months, Hingis became the youngest Wimbledon champion this century. Charlotte "Lottie" Dod won in 1887 at 15 years, 10 months.
"It might be that I'm too young to win this title," Hingis said.
Actually, she played like a veteran, using guile and ground strokes to wear down an experienced grass-court pro.
This was a match that had it all.
And a dash of psychology.
There was Hingis, the girl named after Martina Navratilova, winning the biggest title in tennis, claiming her second Grand Slam victory of the season.
She's No. 1 in the world -- and she's an era.
With Steffi Graf sidelined by a knee injury, Hingis owns women's tennis.
She even emulates Graf.
Years ago, she watched on television as Graf made a victory jog around Centre Court.
Yesterday, Hingis made the same run, saluting the crowd.
"I almost felt like crying because it really happened to me," she said.
Hingis played a little bit like Graf, too.
She blasted winners from the baseline. But, more important, she adapted.
Novotna was serving her out of the tournament in the first set, making her look like a scared kid.
It was the first time in the tournament that Hingis dropped a set.
"She was really all over the net and she served very well," Hingis said. "She just didn't give me enough space for the returns. I was in shock."
But she recovered. And decided to charge the net, winning with fury and volleys.
In the sixth game of the second set, coming off the line, she nailed a forehand pass, breaking Novotna's serve -- and a little bit of her spirit.
The kid was rolling, now. She unleashed a lob that froze Novotna -- and the crowd -- to close the second set.
But there she was early in the third set, losing her serve, down 0-2, throwing her racket around as if she were on a playground.
"Well, if I throw my racket, I'm not happy about what I'm doing," she said.
And then, the kid virtually ran the table.
She bullied Novotna with passing shots. She hit a few spectacular lobs. And then, for good measure, she dumped in some drop shots.
"I felt like, come on, I've got to take it home and I've got a great chance," Hingis said.
And she ended it all with a forehand winner, skipping to the net as the crowd cheered.
"Like a dream come true," she said, describing the victory.
For Novotna, it was more failure at Wimbledon.
But this wasn't like 1993, when she was five points from the title and folded in the final against Graf, earning a reputation as a "tennis choker."
"I was coming into this championship as a different person," she said.
She was also hurt, nursing an abdominal muscle she pulled in her semifinal victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
The injury cramped her serving style as the match wore on.
"I knew that I would have to be extremely lucky and Martina would have to make a lot of mistakes for me to win the match," Novotna said. "I was going into this match knowing that either Martina is going to win it or she's going to lose it."
Novotna congratulated Hingis and called her a professional who was respectful to other players.
"I think she will be very good because I think that she's very normal," Novotna said.
And Hingis spoke with warmth of Novotna after they playfully grabbed at the championship plate.
"She really deserves to win this title," Hingis said.
But this may have been Novotna's last best chance to claim Wimbledon.
Four years ago, as she accepted a runner-up prize, she wept on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.
This time, she smiled. And listened to a royal voice.
"Well, you know, that after '93, it seems like we do have some kind of very special relationship," Novotna said. "She told me that I will have to come back next year again to try and win it. And she said that the third time would be lucky."
Hingis' road to title
How top seed Martina Hingis won the women's singles title at Wimbledon (seeds in parentheses):
Round, Opponent, Sets, Score
First, Anne Kremer, 2, 6-4, 6-4
Second, Olga Barabanschikova, 2, 6-2, 6-2
Third, Nicole Arendt, 2, 6-1, 6-3
Fourth, Sabine Appelmans, 2, 6-1, 6-3
Quarterfinals, Denisa Chladkova, 2, 6-3, 6-2
Semifinals, Anna Kournikova, 2, 6-3, 6-2
Final, Jana Novotna, (3) 3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3
The box score of top seed Martina Hingis' 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 3 seed Jana Novotna in the Wimbledon women's final yesterday:
............... ............. H ........ N
Aces .......... ............. 2 ........ 2
Service winners ............. 17 ....... 14
Double faults ............... 1 ........ 4
First-serve pct. ............ 67 ....... 57
% of 1st-serve pts. won ..... 59 ....... 61
Break points ................ 5-11 ..... 4-9
Return points won ........... 40 ....... 40
Net points .................. 27-40 .... 72-127
Total points won ............ 94 ....... 92
Time of match: 1:50
Pub Date: 7/06/97