The New York Times thought that Martina Hingis had "a cartoon-sized smile on her face and homicide in her heart". Hingis has always been a spirited, competitive woman, but there are undoubtedly some occasions when she is even more driven than usual, and there was no disguising her determination to beat Lindsay Davenport in the final of the 1998 season-ending championships at New York's Madison Square Garden.
One reason for that was that the Swiss had never won the tournament before, and another was that she had hit something of a barren patch that season, going without a title since her victory in Rome in the spring. But, above all else, Hingis wanted to deny Davenport, to avenge her defeat to the American in the city earlier that season, in the final of the US Open. That was plain from what Hingis said to Davenport over the post-match handshake: "I guess I got you this time." Two years earlier, Hingis had been the runner-up to Steffi Graf in a five-set conclusion to the tournament and the year. On her second appearance in the final, she required four sets to beat Davenport and to become, at the age of 18 years and two months, the fourth youngest champion in history - only Monica Seles, Tracy Austin and Chris Evert had been more precocious. "I was playing for my pride - I really wanted to win this tournament," said Hingis. "I'm very happy to win this title - it feels good to finish the season without losing to anybody."
The second of Hingis' titles came in 2000, by which time the final was played as a best-of-three-set match, but the shortened format hardly reduced the drama and the excitement of her victory over Seles. This was was last occasion that the tournament would be played in New York, and it was a decent send-off; though Seles had led 7-6, 4-2, it was Hingis who would score the title after almost two and a half hours of compelling tennis. Hingis, who had been the runner-up to Davenport in 1999, would never take the title again.
Mark Hodgkinson is the author of 'Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players' (Bloomsbury, May 2015).