There were no outbursts, no last-ditch tricks from Martina Hingis at Wimbledon today. Instead, the usually iron-willed No. 1 seed was eerily submissive as she watched her world crumble in a 6-2, 6-0 first-round loss to 16-year-old Australian qualifier Jelena Dokic.
This was Hingis's first singles match since her collapse in the French Open final, a petulant display that included questioned line calls, a broken racket and underhand serves on Steffi Graf's match point. Hingis ended that day in tears, stalking off the court before her mother and coach, Melanie Molitor, coaxed her back for the trophy ceremony.
After being bombarded by criticism in the 17 days since, Hingis decided to play Wimbledon without the usually vigilant Molitor in the country, much less courtside. She also dropped the poor manners, but the fire and concentration that usually accompany her game were missing as well. By the time she returned one of Dokic's serves long to end the match 54 minutes after it began, Hingis seemed resigned. About a half-hour later she announced that she will take a month off before playing the U.S. hard-court season, withdrawing from her doubles matches here with a "recurring medical problem."
"Maybe I just need a break from everything right now," Hingis, 18, said. "I need to take some time off and recover again. Coming from the clay court to the grass court is a bit different, and just other things combined, what has been written and everything, you know. It was probably not enough time.
"You try to go out on the court and forget about everything that happened, but I couldn't really pick up my game today. She just didn't give me a chance to get into it."
Hingis's dismissal was the biggest surprise on an unusually sun-soaked day at the All England club, although it certainly did not hold the monopoly on drama. Three-time champion Boris Becker made his return memorable by fighting off three match points to defeat Britain's Miles Maclagan, 5-7, 6-7 (9-7), 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. Jennifer Capriati moved to the second round by defeating Anke Huber, 5-7, 6-3, 9-7, in an engaging match that had been carried over from the evening before. And seeds Andre Agassi (4), Patrick Rafter (2), Lindsay Davenport (3), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3) and defending champion Jana Novotna (5) advanced.
Hingis's absence opens up the draw for players such as Davenport and Novotna, who both expressed surprise at her collapse. The result marks only the third time in the 21-year open era that the top women's seed has lost in the opening round here.
"It was quite shocking and bizarre to watch because [Hingis] looked really out of it -- kind of nonchalant, like she almost didn't care," Davenport said. "I think what happened [at the French Open] must have affected her a lot. It was almost like she didn't want to show any emotion out there."
Hingis, who won this tournament in 1997, had little reason to expect fireworks when she stepped onto the court today. Dokic, ranked No. 129, was the junior world champion last year and has been pegged as one of the game's rising young stars, but Hingis defeated her easily in the third round of the Australian Open this year, 6-1, 6-2.
Dokic looked more prepared for this match, firing groundstrokes with enough intensity and accuracy to draw gasps of amazement from the Court 1 crowd. Hingis's best opportunity to catch her came in the second game of the second set, after she had fought back from 40-15 on Dokic's serve. But on break point, Hingis returned a ball long to bring the game back to deuce. When the ball returned to her side of the court on a random bounce she smacked it away in anger, and Dokic was able to close out the game quickly.
Dokic then proceeded to pound her way through the match, determined not to give Hingis an opening. She won the final 11 games, becoming the open era's lowest-ranked player to defeat a No. 1 seed at a Grand Slam.
"Even though I won that first set, I knew it wasn't going to be easy because if you give her one chance she's going to take it," said Dokic, who practiced with Hingis at Hingis's home in Switzerland this year. "I'd say I played quite well. It's still hard to believe I've beaten Martina, but I have to keep my feet on the ground because just because I've beaten Martina doesn't mean I'll win the tournament."
Dokic is a Serbia native who moved to Australia at age 11 and first grabbed headlines this month when her father, Damir, was expelled from a tournament for shouting abusive language at officials. Witnesses said Damir was wrestled to the ground while shouting insults in reference to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia and that after he was thrown off the tournament grounds he began disrupting traffic, lying down in front of cars.
The WTA issued Damir a "severe" warning, and he attended his daughter's match today without incident. Hingis's mother did not attend. This is the first time she has missed one of Hingis's major matches, although Hingis said there had been no falling-out between them.
"I want to be more independent to do my own decisions, the way I practice and the way I want to do things," she said. "I wanted to try it but it didn't work out this time . . . we are going to talk about it and then we will do some more decisions, but right now, I just need a break."
When: Through July 4.
Where: All England club, Wimbledon.
Defending champions: Pete Sampras, Jana Novotna.
Top seeds: Sampras, Martina Hingis.
Today's TV: 9 a.m., HBO.
Yesterday's results: Men -- Patrick Rafter (2), Australia, def. Cristiano Caratti, Italy, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Yevgeny Kafelnikov (3), Russia, def. Magnus Larsson, Sweden, 6-7 (7-4), 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-5; Andre Agassi (4), Las Vegas, def. Andrei Pavel, Romania, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3; Richard Krajicek (5), Netherlands, def. Christian Ruud, Norway, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1; Todd Martin (8), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., def. Hendrik Dreekmann, Germany, 6-7 (8-6), 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; Goran Ivanisevic (10), Croatia, def. Mikael Tillstrom, Sweden, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; Gustavo Kuerten (11), Brazil, def. Chris Wilkinson, Britain, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Women -- Jelena Dokic, Australia, def. Hingis, Switzerland, 6-2, 6-0; Lindsay Davenport (3), Newport Beach, Calif., def. Alexandra Fusai, France, 6-0, 6-3; Jana Novotna (5), Czech Republic, def. Shi-Ting Wang, Taiwan, 6-2, 6-1; Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (7), Spain, def. Annamaria Foldenyi, Hungary, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Mary Pierce (9), France, def. Fabiola Zuluaga, Colombia, 6-3, 6-2; Julie Halard-Decugis (11), France, def. Sandra Nacuk, Yugoslavia, 6-1, 6-0.
Today's featured matches: Men -- Sampras vs. Sebastien Lareau, Canada; Kafelnikov vs. Paradorn Srichaphan, Thailand; Chris Woodruff, Knoxville, Tenn., vs. Tim Henman (6), Britain; Mark Woodforde, Australia, vs. Mark Philippoussis (7), Australia; Greg Rusedski (9), Britain, vs. Arvind Parmar, Britain; Carlos Moya (12), Spain, vs. Jim Courier, Orlando; Paul Goldstein, Rockville, vs. Felix Mantilla (16), Spain. Women -- Mariaan de Swardt, South Africa, vs. Steffi Graf (2), Germany; Marlene Weingartner, Germany, vs. Monica Seles (4), Sarasota, Fla.; Venus Williams (6), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., vs. Elena Tatarkova, Ukraine; Amanda Coetzer (12), South Africa, vs. Miho Saeki, Japan; Maria Alejandra Vento, Venezuela, vs. Anna Kournikova (17), Russia.
CAPTION: In her first singles match since unraveling in the French Open final, Martina Hingis, above, loses to 16-year-old Jelena Dokic, 6-2, 6-0.
CAPTION: Ranked 129th, Jelena Dokic, world junior champion last year, won final 11 games.
CAPTION: Martina Hingis clears security following loss. "I think what happened [at the French Open] must have affected her a lot," Lindsay Davenport said.