She didn't have to face Kim Clijsters or Svetlana Kuznetsova. The toughest opposition she had all week proved to be a resurgent (?) Venus Williams. That's what the commentators will say when the French Open rolls around, and they might minimize the fact that Martina Hingis came away with a Tier I tournament win at Rome early today.
If her story was one for the underdogs before, one of those warm-fuzzies, it's now a tad bit more now. Hingis is back, really back, and she'll be ranked 14th next week. She could find herself with a higher seed for a major, not having to face big guns early. She will also have the advantage of being an excellent clay-courter, and this time around, perhaps a crowd favorite as well.
If Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles are still serious about tennis, they must be taking an extended double-take at what Hingis has done in five months.
What she hasn't done in the years she was away was grow about a foot and gain muscle and a monster serve. But, clay is the great equalizer. Hingis still has her game, and she knows that even after all that time away, she can still come up with the goods: "They have never seen a drop shot, a slice and all the mixture and variety I have." It was enough to disrupt clay native Dinara Safina today, and it could be enough in a week's time.