- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

The Roland Garros faithful won't have Martina Hingis to kick around this year not that they'll be heartbroken.
Or vice versa, for that matter.
Hingis, whose Paris popularity can only be described as Marcelo Rios-esque, will miss this year's French Open following surgery on her ailing left ankle.
Last week, a Swiss doctor patched one torn and three loose ligaments in the joint. Along with severe foot, knee and hip pain, the injury has prevented Hingis from playing or practicing and even has cast doubt on her tennis future.
Dr. Heinz Buehlmann reportedly told Swiss radio that the operation went well, but that Hingis will need a minimum of six to eight weeks of rest before she can begin light training. If pain persists, Buehlmann added, Hingis may be forced to quit the sport.
Yet while early retirement would be a devastating blow to the 21-year-old star who has captured every Grand Slam title save Roland Garros missing this season's French might not be such a bad thing.
After all, Hingis is hardly a favorite of the French Open crowd, largely because of her bratty, petulant meltdown against Steffi Graf in the 1999 final. Last year, the Swiss Miss even had an egg thrown at her during a changeover.
What's more, the feeling appears to be mutual. Prior to the tournament, Hingis fired a verbal salvo at the Roland Garros gallery, concluding that "Paris is a great city, if the French wouldn't be there they're arrogant."
Should Hingis return next year, it's doubtful she'll draw any hearts in the red clay. Even if she wins.
Likewise, don't expect a slew of get-well-soon cards beginning with "Bon jour."
And now, a look at this year's field:

Favorites
Andre Agassi: Since pulling out of the Aussie Open with a wrist injury, the Bald One has won 24 of 27 matches and three titles, including a clay-court tune-up in Rome. Barring blisters or another surprise visit by Bill Clinton Agassi should go deep into a fairly favorable draw.
Jennifer Capriati: Matthew Perry's special "Friend" is the defending champ and the only major women's contender with a French title under her belt. Her Fed Cup flap aside, Jen Jen has the grit and tenacity to repeat.

Contenders
Lleyton Hewitt: Top seed owns all the tools to succeed on clay: speed, stamina, mental toughness. That said, he's only reached one career final on the surface. Dangerous draw does him no favors.
Gustavo Kuerten: Guga loves Roland Garros, and the feeling is mutual. Even after February hip surgery, defending champ and crowd favorite can't be discounted.
Juan Carlos Ferrero: Clay court ace looked invincible at Monte Carlo and was the ATP's Player of the Month in April. Since then, his play has sagged badly. Could benefit from a fortuitous draw.
Venus Williams: Making amends for last year's stunning first round loss to Barbara Schett shouldn't be a problem. More troublesome, however, is her sprained right wrist, which Williams injured while get this picking up her practice bag.
Serena Williams: Baby sis recently captured the Italian Open for her first title on clay, beating Capriati for the fourth straight time. Coping with a nagging leg injury the same one that kept her out of the Australian Open but then again, isn't she always?
Justine Henin: Belgian pixie's Jack the Ripper backhand sliced and diced Serena Williams in the clay court final at Berlin. Confidence sometimes lacking.

Long shots
Roger Federer: Up-and-comer pounded heavyweight Marat Safin to capture German Open. Has skill but lacks seasoning; sooner or later, that figures to change.
Andy Roddick: Big server can compete on the red stuff, as evidenced by a successful defense of his clay court crown in Houston. Of course, his win came against dust dud Pete Sampras.
Marat Safin: Tour's most talented player bothered by back troubles. Still, could win if develops the stomach to go with his shots.
Thomas Johannson: Surprise Aussie champ is fretting about burnout. No worries in all likelihood, he won't be around by Week Two.
Kim Clijsters: Bum shoulder working against last year's runner-up; concussive ground strokes working for her.
Monica Seles: Missed last year's French with a foot injury. In top form this time around will that be enough?
Jelena Dokic: With each passing season, goes deeper into the draw. Last week's loss to Silvia Farina-Elia in the Strasbourg final not the best omen.
Daniela Hantuchova: Slinky, shotmaking Slovak is a rising star and, for the first time, a target.

No hope
Pete Sampras: Forgive us for piling on, but Pistol Pete has never advanced past the French semis and is mired in a 27-tournament title drought. Even Don Quixote would take pity.
Amelie Mauresmo: WTA's resident meltdown artist fell in the first round last year, turning fickle French fans against her. As soon as she starts to struggle and she will expect a home-court disadvantage.



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