When Martina Hingis and Serena Williams stepped on to the Rod Laver Arena in 2001 they were already regarded as two of the most gifted players to grace a tennis court. Hingis possessed, as Serena still does, a fearsome armory of shots, supreme mental and physical strength, and an utter determination to win at all costs.
That was why there was a real buzz around this quarterfinal clash. It was the 10th time the pair had met in just over three years, with Hingis leading their head-to-head 5-4. More crucially, though, going into the Australian Open Hingis had already beaten Serena once in Australia that year - 6-4 7-5 in Sydney.
At the time they were players in very different stages of their careers. Hingis, a child prodigy and reigning world No.1, had already secured a hat-trick of Aussie titles (1997, 1998, 1999). However, even though she did not know it as yet, she had already reached the pinnacle of her tennis career and was on a path that would lead to premature retirement. Williams, meanwhile, was just getting started. The then world No.6 had already secured her first Grand Slam (1999 US Open), but would have to wait more than a year to take her second (and two more years before she got her hands on the first of her five Aussie titles).
From the start, Hingis was on the offence. Breaking early in the set, she dominated Williams in all areas of the court. What's more, with Serena struggling to find her range, a second break for 5-2 left Hingis open to serve out the set 6-2 . At this stage it wasn't the classic that many had predicted. Hingis was simply too good.
But as the world has come to realise over her glittering career, you can never rule out Serena. If Hingis dominated the first, the second was all about Serena Williams. She found her serve , her range and she was able to break the world No.1 early on . Hingis rallied and broke back immediately. The pair then battled through a fascinating set of tennis until Serena made the move. Setting up - and putting away - a neat overhead gave her the break for 5-3 (http://bit.ly/LQpTZX, and she duly took the second set 6-3.
What happened next will live in tennis folklore for years to come.
If the first two sets had been fascinating, the third was outstanding. Point after point and game after game the pair traded some simply exquisite shots. Serena, however, secured an early break to seize the advantage. 2-1 became 4-1 and with the way she was playing it looked like Serena was on the verge of booking a semfinal date with her sister, Venus. Hingis, however, had other ideas. The Swiss star fashioned a break for 2-4, and then came back from 0-40 to hold for 3-4. The momentum had swung. With some incredible tennis Hingis levelled the third, before Serena rediscovered her rhythm to break for 5-4. Again Hingis rallied and again she broke as the quality of the tennis increased point after point. 5-5 became 7-6 to Hingis as the world No.1 held , forcing Serena to serve to stay in the match. She might have saved one match point with some of the best tennis you'll see under incredible pressure , but there was nothing she could do about the next, Hingis took the win 8-6.
It had been a sensational match. Hingis went on to beat Venus easily in the Semis (6-1 6-1) before losing to Jennifer Capriati 6-4 6-3 in the championship match.