The Lipton Championships

Martina Hingis The Lipton Championships is probably the biggest tennis event in South Florida. Combining the ATP & WTA, men's and women's tournaments, the best tennis players in the world come to Key Biscayne to compete. This year's list included Pete Sampras, Monica Seles and the eventual winner of the women's matches, Martina Hingis.

The stadium is the newest and latest in design, allowing everyone excellent viewing and providing for big crowds to attend in comfort. There is ample parking, very little hassle, a parklike setting within the grounds and a party atmosphere for all who attend.

Hopefully, the weather is superb Florida weather. This year it was perfect, though the players may have felt a little too much heat .. from their opponents and the sun.

17lipton97.jpg - 12.23 KThe Lipton Stadium

Like the US Open, there are so many matches going on at the start that you have difficulty deciding which players on which courts you want to watch ... but that is all part of the excitement.

The days of the finals arrive before you realize it. Saturday is the women's final and Sunday, the men's. The finals begin at 1 p.m. so there is ample time to drive down for the day and not feel rushed.

Thomas Muster - Winner!This year everyone was expecting an exciting match between Martina Hingis and Monica Seles. When it began, it looked as though it was going to be one tough match.

Seles served first .. and Hingis broke her service right away. Seles came back the second game and broke Hingis' serve. Both were playing well. Then Hingis broke Seles' next serve on the third game .. and the match was never in doubt again. Seles managed to win another game .. and there were some spectacular moments and plays on both sides but there was no question who the superior player was that day.

Martina Hingis & Monica Seles Seles certainly did not look like the champion player we know her to be. In the press conference, she had no excuses .. did not blame her shoulder or finger .. just that she was not "into the match" .. and that she had lots to think about for the future .. kind of training, etc.

True to her personality, she was a gracious loser, praising Martina for becoming #1 and playing such a strong tournament and match. She said Hingis was just the better player.

For many of us, it was a sad day. We had hoped that Seles would be able to make the triumphant return that she had accomplished in Toronto over a year ago. Whether it is her injuries, her concern for her father, that she just does not want it badly enough right now .. who knows? only time will tell.

For now, it is out with the old, and in with the new. Hingis has proven to be #1 and the top champion on the tour right now. It remains to be seen what will happen when Steffi Graf returns, and if Seles can pull her game together. For the distant future it looks as though Hingis' competition will be from the newer gals on the block .. Iva Majoli, Anna Kournikova and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.

Jana Novotna Of course, with a few good breaks, Jana Novotna could move right in there. The best match we watched at Lipton '97 was the Hingis/Novotna.

For the crowds .. and the stands were full .. they were so much for Seles, she had great support. They were disappointed to see such a short match, but did get a great doubles match with the Woodies and Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor. Both sets ended with tie-breaks, with the Woodies winning both and finally taking the Men's Doubles Championship.

Sunday was the last day for the matches and everyone was excited. Even though there was some disappointment that Pete Sampras would not be playing, the crowds did turn out.

Prior to the Men's finals, there was an awards ceremony for the Wheelchair Tennis competition and a demonstration set was played. To watch these players scoot around in their wheelchairs and then be able to hit such strong shots, is truly fantastic. Not only do they have to have the tennis skills, but learning to maneuver the chair with one hand .. forward, back and turn on a dime in both directions! Whew .. what strength and endurance they must have for this.

Goran IvanisevicWhen Thomas Muster and Sergi Bruguera walked onto the court for the final match, it was obvious that there were large numbers of fans for both men but the Spanish fans were a little more vocal, cheering and calling encouragement to Sergi all through the match.

We were all set for some stupendous tennis, and for the most part were not disappointed. Each held his service and the first set went to a tie-breaker. During the set, it was Muster who seemed upset as he was called for a foot fault and a line call against him on his service. In the tiebreak, both men were playing topnotch tennis and it was still anyone's match.

Bruguera went up 3-1 but let Muster came back to 3-3. At 5-4 Bruguera, Muster netted a return of serve and Bruguera was as close to winning the set as he could get. He had 2 chances to win the set but Muster played several spectacular points...returning two "unreturnable" overhead smashes in a row and eventually took the tie-break to win the first set.

During the match Bruguera had 6 chances to break Muster and could not do it. Muster was certainly the more aggressive and the final score showed it. He won the match and the 1997 Men's Lipton Championship .. 7-6 (8-6);6-3;6-1

A fitting return for Muster. Just 8 years ago, at these matches, Thomas Muster was hit by a car the night before his semi-final match. His left leg was injured quite badly and there was concern whether he would ever be able to play tennis again. Jim CourierHe still does not have full movement to bend the knee. Well, he certainly proved he could play! This had to be a sweet victory for him.

Following the singles finals, and all the awards presentations, they had the finals of the gals doubles .. always some of the most exciting tennis you can watch. Sabine Appelmans and Miriam Oremans battled it out with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Natasha Zvereva, with Vicario/Zvereva the winners: 6-2;6-3.

It looks as though Natasha is THE partner to have in these doubles matches. She has played with several different partners this year and wins with all of them.

Pete Sampras Serves It Up... Lipton '97 is now past history, but what an exciting and fun-filled event. This year the Florida weather was superb. Though hot, there were no storms or strong winds to hamper the matches and the players. The grounds are beautiful and it is fun just to walk and browse. There was a special kid's area with all kinds of games of ball skills for them to try .. golf, soccer, basketball and tennis .. no charge. In fact, when a child completed the round of games they were given a great Lipton thermal drink container. Some games looked like so much fun, we would have liked to try .. but you had to be under 18!! ...

The Lipton Entrance We found there were ample vendors with food and drink so no long lines, lots of goodies to buy, and delightful areas with tables, chairs, umbrellas .. to sit and relax before or after watching a match.

If you have the opportunity, and can be in Palm Beach in March, it is a tournament you will truly enjoy. There is something for everyone.

Ticket packages are usually available in September on a first-come, first served basis. For further information you can call the Lipton office at: 305-461-2010.

© 1997 Alese & Morton Pechter

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