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HINGUS 'CREAKS' TO 12TH STRAIGHT TOURNEY TITLE

Martina Hingis is slowing down in her old age.

Hingis needed 53 minutes to beat Conchita Martinez, 6-0, 6-2, Sunday at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium to win her second consecutive Bank of The West Classic singles title.

Last year it took Hingis 52 minutes to beat Monica Seles.

Clearly, Hingis' game is creaking.

At this rate Hingis, the top seed, might need an entire hour to win her third Grand Slam of the year in the U.S. Open final Sept. 7, three weeks before she turns 17.

What a difference 14 months makes. In May 1996 at the Italian Open, Martinez defeated Hingis, then ranked 20th, 6-2, 6-3 -- the second consecutive year the Barcelona native had beaten Hingis in straight sets for a title. In May 1995 in Hamburg, Germany, Martinez beat the 14-year-old for the Citizen Cup.

"I was just a youngster then, and then she was the better player," Hingis said Sunday after collecting the $79,000 first-prize check.

"That was a long time ago. A lot of changes have been made. . . . (Now) we know each other so well from other tournaments. We know that her backhand is not her best shot, and my forehand is not my best shot."

Hingis hit eight backhand winners to Martinez's one. Hingis had a 5-4 forehand-winner advantage over Martinez, 25, who complained of fatigue and a sore right wrist. And when Hingis approached the net, her drop shots crossed the border like spies.

Those factors took all of the drama out of this clash of Wimbledon queens present (Hingis) and past (Martinez, 1994).

Hingis netted her 12th consecutive victory since her only loss this year, to Iva Majoli in the French Open final.

Hingis has won 10 of the past 15 tournaments she has entered. The Bank of the West Classic was the first of five outdoor hard-court tuneups for the Aug. 25-Sept. 7 U.S. Open. Hingis will play in the Toshiba Tennis Classic that begins Sunday in San Diego and in the Acura Classic Aug 4-10 in Los Angeles.

Over the net

Third-seeded Felix Mantilla beat fellow Spaniard and No. 1 seed Sergi Bruguera, 6-3, 7-5, to win the Croatia Open. It was the fourth title of Mantilla's career and his third ATP victory in six weeks. He previously won ATP events in Bologna and Gstaad. With his victory Sunday, he will advance three places in the world rankings, to 11th.

Jim Courier, trying to regain the form that made him the world's No. 1 player in 1992, beat Thomas Enqvist, 6-4, 6-4, to win the Infiniti Open in Los Angeles.

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