After a five years absence from the red clay of Berlin, Martina Hingis made a successful return by beating 11th seed Flavia Pennetta 7-5, 6-3. This straight-set victory also allowed Hingis to avenge her loss to the Italian Pennetta in the semifinals in Gold Coast this January, when she was playing her first tournament of the season and lost in three sets.
After being broken in the first game of the opening set, Hingis managed to quickly reel off four games to lead 4-1. In what appeared to be a momentary lapse of concentration, she lost three breakpoint opportunities and saw Pennetta level the set to 4-4. With both players winning their next service games, Pennetta was unable to hold her serve and surrendered the first set to Hingis at 7-5 on her third set point.
Martina Hingis won the first two games of the second set, only to be broken twice in a row by the Italian’s strong service returns. Tied at 3-3, she won her service game to love, broke Pennetta to 15 and never looked back. She sealed the match after 1 hour 25 minutes, with 80% of first serves in (but was still broken 4 times), 1 ace, and a total of 76 points to her opponent’s 59. While it was not the best match from Hingis, getting over this first hurdle against a seeded player was what she needed to bring her confidence back up after her meltdown against Venus Williams in Warsaw.
Hingis will face local favorite Julia Schruff of Germany in Wednesday’s second round. Scruff, ranked #60, scored an impressive straight-set victory over Emma Laine earlier today. Should Hingis get through what, on paper, looks like a match that should not pose too many problems, she will face a series of revenge opportunities from 3rd round onwards: Elena Dementieva, Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne.
Hingis’ results in Berlin are crucial. They will tell a lot about her current condition, her ability to play among the best women’s tennis, as well as her chances in Roland Garros, which begins on May 29.