Realizations from watching Martina

In watching Martina Hingis win her first-round match, Mary Carillo made two important realizations about the sport of tennis.

Updated: January 18, 2006, 4:52 AM ET
By Mary Carillo | Special to ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- In watching Martina Hingis win her first-round match, I realized two important things.

Important Realization No. 1: I like watching Swiss people play tennis. Roger Federer is the most beautiful tennis player I've ever seen and the classiest No. 1 I've ever known in this game. On the court he is rarely hurried or harried. By moving with grace, speed and stealth, Federer creates shots and choreographs rallies that represent the prettiest expressions of our sport. Off the court, he's a time-bender as well. Somehow, with great ease, he moves among the fans and press with what looks like all the time in the world. He honors his sport, his fans, and all of us who cover it.

Give the other great Swiss, Martina Hingis, time to create and she is magnificent to watch as well. Her game is built on the strength of her mind and the clarity of her court craft. She plays with imagination and whimsy and a deep strain of ruthlessness as well; her haughtiness is palpable and, at times, borders on the hilarious. She so obviously enjoys the battle, the war of wills, the chance to out-think her opponent. When time is on her side, there's no better woman to watch.

Important Realization No. 2: I like watching people named Martina play tennis. The original, Navratilova, is still bringing it at the age of 49. I know she's lost some skills. I don't care. She was authentic and original when she showed up in the sport in 1973. Now, in her fourth decade of tennis, she continues to be authentic and original.

She mastered all three of the sport's disciplines: singles, doubles and mixed, and her enduring love of the sport and competition only adds to her place in tennis history. Her namesake is authentic and original as well. Hingis' love of the game is the equal of Navratilova's and her comeback will generate interest and intrigue in a sport riddled with all too many mind-numbing power merchants.

All of which is to say, welcome back, Martina Hingis.

Mary Carillo is a former WTA Tour pro who will provide analysis for ESPN.com during the Australian Open.

Mary Carillo has parlayed an injury-shortened professional tennis career into a long and highly acclaimed position in sportscasting. Known for a rare combination of candor and humor, she has branched out far beyond her original sport into a wide variety of others, plus investigative features, compelling interviews and serving as a host during the Olympics.

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