Originally created 08/31/99

Hingis wins opener



NEW YORK -- Martina Hingis learned her a lesson from a loss at Wimbledon, Venus Williams learned hers at the French, and both vowed not to make the same mistakes twice.

A first-round loser at Wimbledon after a declaration of independence from her mother and coach, Melanie Molitor, Hingis had her mom at courtside again Monday night in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Hingis raced through the first set, then survived three breaks of her service in the second set to beat No. 74-ranked Czech Kveta Hrdlickova 6-1, 7-5.

Hingis, 18, said she regretted the spat and split with her mother, especially the timing of it, and said, "I won't make that mistake again."

Williams, knocked out early at the French Open by a qualifier she underestimated, bore down with 120 mph serves in the first round this time to romp past another qualifier, Tatiana Poutchek, 6-1, 6-2.

Williams, playing in a bareback blue outfit cut like a swimsuit, shrugged off the chill winds blowing through the stadium on opening day as she kicked off her bid for her first major title.

Though she had never seen Poutchek, a Belarusian ranked No. 145, the No. 3 Williams played as seriously as she did in back-to-back routs of Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport on the way to her fifth tournament win of the year last week.

That was exactly what Williams did not do at the French, where she lost in the fourth round to Barbara Schwartz of Austria.

"I didn't take it seriously," Williams said. "You can't do that. I've learned my lesson. I had to learn it the hard way, in a Grand Slam.

"Each player -- like today, I'd never seen her before -- I'm really going out there to be serious about her. I'm not sure who I play next, or who I have the possibility of playing, but I'm definitely going to go into the match as serious as possible."

Williams made a big splash in her U.S. Open debut two years ago, reaching the final before losing to Hingis. Williams has never gone that far in seven subsequent majors, yet she's been improving in all aspects of her game.

The difference between 1997 and now, Williams said, is "about eight titles, and my ranking is about 61 places better."

Irina Spirlea, best known for bumping Williams on a changeover in the 1997 U.S. semifinals, upset sixth-seeded Amanda Coetzer 6-1, 7-5.

Spirlea made 31 unforced errors to 28 for Coetzer, but had 10 more winners than her South African opponent, 14-4.

In the opening match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Jelena Dokic of Australia was unable to duplicate her Wimbledon surprise, when she shocked Hingis. This time she fell 7-5, 6-1 to No. 10 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Other early winners in women's singles were No. 8 Jana Novotna, No. 12 Barbara Schett, No. 13 Dominique Van Roost and No. 15 Amelie Mauresmo.

There were no early surprises on the men's side as No. 3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No. 8 Carlos Moya and No. 12 Richard Krajicek moved into the second round.

Kafelnikov, a finalist in the French Open, defeated Spain's Alberto Martin 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; Moya stopped Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-4; and Krajicek eliminated Philip King, the USTA National Boys' 18-and-under champion from Long Beach, Calif., 6-1, 6-4, 6-0.

In 1997, Spirlea intentionally bumped Williams on a changeover during their semifinal at the U.S. Open. That prompted Richard Williams, Venus' father and coach, to call the Romanian "a big, tall white turkey."

This time, the main confrontation was with the wind. Spirlea and Coetzer played on the grandstand court, known for its swirling gusts even in the best of conditions. Both players had to constantly adjust, especially on balls hit high with topspin.

Spirlea ventured to the net only to retrieve Coetzer's short shots, but never won a point there. Instead, she traded groundstrokes, and did so enough on key points to pull out the victory.

King was delighted when he drew Krajicek, the former Wimbledon champion, as his first-round opponent.

"My last tournament, I was drawn against Pete Sampras," King said. "I thought, `Can we do it again?"'

King lost to Sampras 6-1, 6-2 in Los Angeles in July, but put a positive spin on the defeat.

"California helped me out a lot," King said of the loss to the world's top-ranked player. "I can do the same here."

King should have learned a lot, then, as Krajicek showed the skills that took him to the Wimbledon title in 1996.