In September of 1997, in their third career meeting, Williams lost to Hingis in the final of the US Open badly 6-0, 6-4. Williams, then only 17 years old, had reached the New York final in her tournament debut by trading winners and errors with six less talented opponents.
But against Hingis, it was “a different match” as Williams would put it as Hingis' solid and tactical plays outlasted the extreme firepower of Williams. Hingis mixed sharp angles and topspin to keep Williams off balance and prolonged a majority of the points to draw error after error. The Swiss would anger some of the American's supporters as she would take a mock forehand swing as one of Williams' groundstrokes would sail long.
And despite the one-sided scoreline, Williams after the match refused to concede much to Hingis, saying “she played a little bit better than me.”
Then in January of 1998, only four months later, it was the world's number one ranked Hingis' first match of the year and both players debuted one piece white dresses from their clothing sponsors. It would be the first of Williams' many one piece dresses as she would become known in part for her fashion on the court.
Hingis applied icepacks to her neck on the changeovers in between serving up her winning mix of topspin and placement as the courtside temperature neared 100 degrees as the two players would split the first two sets.
Then Williams suffered prolonged leg cramps which forced a medical timeout with the American in tears as she sat courtside. And as Williams grimaced in pain, it appeared that she might retire from the match each time she approached the net. But she fought on and her determination would soon pay off.
Williams earlier in the match had patiently traded groundstrokes with Hingis to stay in a larger number of points, but she in the third set went for much shorter points and hit an increasing number of groundstroke winners and aces to close out the match 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Williams had attacked Hingis' short serves and topspin groundstokes with an alarming display of groundstroke force. Then after a celebratory jump and a wave after matchpoint, Williams said her goal was to be number one that year before adding, “anyone can talk, but you have to walk.”