I can't recall a Hingis triumph

I SHAN'T miss Martina Hingis. Graceless and petulant on the court and off it, she was never elegant like Steffi Graf, powerful like the Williams sisters, or indomitable like Justine Henin.

I SHAN'T miss Martina Hingis.

Graceless and petulant on the court and off it, she was never elegant like Steffi Graf, powerful like the Williams sisters, or indomitable like Justine Henin.

While all those women have achieved memorable successes in her time, I can't honestly say I recall a single Hingis triumph.

I remember her arriving on the international tennis scene as a precocious hot-housed brat.

I recall her being a spectacularly bad loser when Graf beat her in the 1999 French Open final.

But of her five Grand Slam titles I recollect none.

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It must be a strange thing, though, to reach retirement - for the second time - at just 27. And what a strange and uncomfortable way to go.

Hingis, on the face of it, is one of the last sports stars you would expect to test positive for drugs. The parallels with Capriati, though, are interesting.

Both were brought up from birth to be tennis-players. Both were professionals at barely 14 and both clocked up strings of “youngest-ever” records on their way to becoming world No 1.

When you've lived all your life under that kind of pressure and expectation, it must be awful to reach the point where your bright future is all behind you.

The astonishing thing about Capriati was that her short stint as the world's best actually came after her drug problems and her spell away from the sport.

She showed great courage and resilience to fight back after her much-publicised fall from grace.

Nobody, though, would ever take cannabis to enhance their sporting performance.

You might, just conceivably, attempt to give some to your opponents to make them easier to overcome.

The case of Hingis is rather different. The allegation - which she strenuously denies - is that she took cocaine at this year's Wimbledon.

And while coke is chiefly known as a recreational drug, it can, theoretically at least, be used as a sporting aid.

A stimulant of the central nervous system, it increases tolerance of intense physical exercise.

So while it's of no use for long-term cheating - quite the opposite, in fact - it might get you through a match that was otherwise too tough.

That's why footballer Adrian Mutu was sacked by Chelsea in 2004 and banned from the game for seven months. That seemed a draconian, almost irrelevant, double punishment for recreational use of a drug that had nothing to do with sport. Except that it could have.

A few months earlier the Italian cyclist Marco Pantani had died of cocaine poisoning.

Again, the overdose was probably not related to his sport - at least, not directly. But Pantani's promising career had been wrecked by doping scandals, and his death furthered muddied the waters.

However unappealing Hingis was as a pre-programmed star, one can hardly associate her with that kind of sordid world.

So I hope she succeeds in clearing her name. And I hope she finds a worthwhile life after tennis.

THE best thing that can be said about the plan for the new Olympic stadium at Stratford is that it's a lot better than the logo.

Probably the worst is the price tag. At £496million, it's a whacking 77 per cent above the £280m first quoted.

John Armitt, chairman of something called the Olympic Delivery Authority, says the rise is “easily explained” by inflation and tax. Well, I'm glad he's not doing my household accounts. I suppose his pay may have gone up 77pc after tax in three years, but I know mine hasn't.

Lord Coe says the stadium “delivers on everything we said it would deliver on”, which may be true.

But then he also said the logo - surely the tattiest design ever “unveiled” - was “the vision at the very heart of our brand”.

As a visionary, Seb Coe was once a very good runner.

THEY say that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Experience also tells me that people who buy football clubs can seldom resist tinkering with what they've bought.

So I hope David Sheepshanks and Jim Magilton get to enjoy the full benefit of Marcus Evans's millions without living to regret the deal.

Of course, these days £44million isn't enormous licks in the inflated world of football. But it could just be enough to put Ipswich Town back on a sound footing and raise hopes of a better future.

As for the apparent fall-back option of David Sullivan - do we really want Town in the hands of an Essex pornographer?

I guess he's been a decent enough boss of Birmingham City, but still. It's not quite the thing, is it?

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