WHAT HAPPENED: Martina Hingis continued her storybook comeback at the US Open on Thursday by teaming with Italian Flavia Pennetta to beat No. 3 seed Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Sania Mirza of India 6-2, 6-4 to reach the women's doubles final.
Hingis, 33, is a five-time Grand Slam singles champion and nine-time Grand Slam doubles winner, who walked away from the game in 2003 and then again in 2007. Today she put on a showcase of her shotmaking skills reminiscent of her prime when she was the world No. 1 in 1997 by striking elegant backhand passing shots, deep lobs and moving effortlessly at the net to crisply put away volleys throughout the 70-minute match in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
"It's a great moment to be out here," Hingis said. "I'm enjoying every second."
Pennetta, 32, is also an accomplished doubles player having won the 2011 Australian Open crown and having been ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles with a different partner.
Together Pennetta and Hingis worked in perfect synch, racing out to a 5-1 lead, to easily grab the the 30-minute opening set.
Although her team committed multiple errors and hesitated on putting balls away, Mirza started with an ace in the second set. That powerful shot would foreshadow their upcoming dominance, hitting six more winners than in the first. Showing frustration and placing the ball with less accuracy, Hingis and Pennetta were one point away from trailing 1-5. But then they pumped themselves up as a team, hitting again at their opponents’ feet and rushing forward to run off the last five games of the match.
“You feel the energy of the crowd,” Hingis said.
Pennetta felt her partner could not have played better than she did. “She’s unbelievable at the net,” Pennetta said.
When the last ball clipped the net, Hingis could not contain her emotions.
“I got goose bumps,” Hingis said. "It was pure tension and I was really nervous. I think I really enjoyed this moment.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Hingis and Pennetta, who’ve played three tournaments together this season, play Russian favorites, the No. 4 seeds, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova in the final on the weekend. The “Swiss Miss” will play in her first Grand Slam doubles final since 2002. Aside from her love of the game, Hingis’ reason behind coming back this year is due to how well she and Pennetta click. “We trust each other,” said Hingis about her Italian partner. Regardless of whether they win the title or lose, Hingis and Pennetta are scheduled to compete in several more tournaments through the rest of the year.
Mirza’s best result was the semifinals last year. Black had won the US Open crown in 2008 with American Liezel Huber, beating Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-3, 7-6. Hingis teamed with Jana Novotna to beat Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva 6-3, 6-3 in the 1998 US Open final.
THE QUESTION: Can Hingis claim another Grand Slam doubles title since winning a calendar doubles Grand Slam 16 years ago?