Originally created 09/06/97

Venus vs. Hingis: Contrasting teens



NEW YORK (AP) - They are like a tennis Mutt and Jeff, one short, the other tall, a pair of precocious teen-agers who will play Sunday for the U.S. Open women's championship.

That's where the similarities end.

One was named for a tennis star, the other for the evening star. One wears a ribbon in her hair and the other wears beads in her braids. One laughs with opponents, the other is all business.

Martina Hingis at 5-foot-6 is Mutt and Venus Williams at 6-foot-2 is Jeff.

They are the present and future of women's tennis.

Hingis at age 16 will be playing for her third Grand Slam title of the season. Williams, a year older, is the first unseeded player to reach the women's final at the Open.

It's a cinch other players will be rooting for Hingis, a popular player in the locker room, and not Williams, who is perceived as standoffish, equipped with a bit of a chip on her shoulder.

During their match Friday, Hingis and Lindsay Davenport often laughed at futile shots, acting like a couple of kids out for a friendly afternoon of hitting instead of playing the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

There was no such levity in the second match between Williams and Irina Spirlea, who did nothing to avoid a most unladylike collision during one changeover and did no smiling at each other.

Davenport, one of the players who has mentioned Williams' chilly locker room demeanor, said Hingis is a fun opponent.

"I think she has the best attitude of any top player that's ever been there," she said. "A couple of times today, she hit great shots. She was laughing with me at them."

At a coin toss once, Hingis tweaked Davenport by saying, "Do you want me to serve or break you?" On Friday, Davenport recalled Hingis saying, "That wasn't such good luck, so next time I'll just choose."

Rather than being annoyed, Davenport said she was amused. "She's so funny about it, has such a good attitude about it. When she hits a bad shot, she'll say, `God, that was atrocious.' She's just very honest, funny about it She's got a great sense of humor. Martina has a light personality."

Just like Venus?

"Right," Davenport smirked.

Williams doesn't particularly worry about how she's viewed by her colleagues.

"They have feelings and they can feel whatever way they want to, but I don't want to be a part of it," she said.

Williams said the second set bump with Spirlea was an innocent accident. "It wasn't a football-type incident," she said.

Joannette Kruger, beaten in fourth round by Williams, recalled an intriguing moment during their match, also on a changeover. "She smiled at me," Kruger said, "It was like she was saying, `Is that all you've got?' "

Williams was asked about the incident and bristled a bit.

"I wasn't really smiling," she said. "Why don't you guys tell me what they want me to do? They should come up to me and say, `Venus, I want you to smile so I can feel better.' It's not about that.

"When I want to smile, I'll smile. If I don't want to, I'm not going to. I think it's a little bit peevish. Smiling. What does that have to do with anything?"

Got that, bub?