By J. Fred Sidhu
Daniela Hantuchova (pronounced hahn-TOO-koh-vuh) had never won a Sanex WTA Tour singles title prior to coming to Indian Wells. In fact, she had never been in tour singles final.
All of that changed last Saturday on a cold and windy afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, when she shocked second-seeded Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-4 to win the Pacific Life Open.
Hantuchova, an 18-year-old from Slovakia, received a check for $332,000, making it the biggest payday in her career.
"It's for me like a dream come true because this was my first final ever in such an important tournament," said Hantuchova, who dominated Hingis from start to finish.
"And playing one of the greatest players (Hingis), beating her the way I did was just unbelievable for me," she added. "I'm just glad that all the work that I have done in practice in the previous months has just come together."
Hantuchova, who won mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon last year and at the Australian Open in January, had come close to defeating some of the top players.
Last May at the Italian Open, she nearly defeated Amelie Mauresmo of France before falling in three-sets. Mauresmo was ranked sixth in the world at the time.
She lost to Jennifer Capriati twice in 2001 with both matches going three-sets. At the Canadian Open, in her second loss to Capriati, Hantuchova was up a set and two service breaks before she lost.
In November, Hantuchova reached the quarterfinal of a tournament in Zurich where she lost to third-ranked Lindsay Davenport in three sets.
In January, she lost to Venus Williams in the third round of the Australian Open, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4. Williams would gain the number one ranking in February for the first time in her career.
However, in Indian Wells, there was no doubt this was going to be her day. Hant-uchova slammed 33 winners to Hingis' 16. She described the match as the best she's ever played.
Despite the loss, Hingis had nothing but praise for her opponent after the match. "She just played very fearless," she said. "I had a few opportunities which I didn't take, especially early in the set and then she was hitting those lines."
Hingis added, "She definitely has a great future ahead of her if she continues to play like this."
With her victory at Indian Wells, Hantuchova moved to a career-high number 17 on the Sanex WTA rankings.