The Volvo Car Open has had its share of dramatic matches, including many engaging finals. Twenty years ago – April 6, 1997 -- was one such occasion, a classic generation gap moment between two all-time greats.
Martina Hingis was the one in ascent. Sixteen years old, Hingis just the prior week had become the youngest number one in tennis history. The Swiss savant’s run to the top was demonstrated vividly in Miami when she’d beaten Monica Seles – the woman who’d previously been the youngest number one -- in the finals, 6-2, 6-1. Seamlessly transitioning to the clay of South Carolina, Hingis dropped one set on her way to the finals.
There was no way Seles would dare let herself be beaten that way twice in a row – much less two straight weeks. Always in contention on clay, the three-time Roland Garros champion won all her matches in straight sets and was hungry to win a significant tour stop she was playing for the first time.
Showing her exceptional brand of urgency, Seles took the first five games in just 14 minutes, eventually closing out the set 6-3. Hingis took the second by the same score. A tight third went the distance. In the tiebreaker, Seles took a 5-2 lead – at which point Hingis rattled off five straight points.
“I just wanted to go out there and take it a point at a time and go for my shots,” said Seles. “I did that most of the time, and in the key points I didn’t do that.”
“If you are 5-2 down in the tiebreaker and you know you have to play against the wind, you just try to make her [Seles] do the mistakes,” said a relieved Hingis. “I just fought back and tried to move her around and make her tired. She just played much better, much more clever this time.”
Not until 2015, when Angelique Kerber beat Madison Keys 7-5 in the third, was a final so closely contested at this tournament.