Hingis survived Sunday's 2-hour, 21-minute marathon to win her second Chase Championships and keep Monica Seles from capturing a fourth season-ending title.
"This is like the fifth Grand Slam," Hingis said. "I think I deserve now the respect of being No. 1."
When Seles buried a service return into the net, ending the 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 battle, Hingis wept with joy and relief. The world's top-ranked player had been extended by a former No. 1 who was trying to capture the Madison Square Garden finale, which she last won in 1992.
"I played some great tennis," Seles said, "but Martina was just too tough there at the end."
After being held at the Garden since 1979, the championships are moving next year to Munich, Germany.
Hingis and Seles engaged in a classic in the final New York edition, with one getting the momentum only briefly before the other edged ahead.
Seles served for the first set in the 10th game but was broken. Hingis had three set points in the 12th game - a 24-point miniature of the afternoon's competition before they played the tiebreaker, which Seles won 7-5.
The first set took 56 minutes and the tension was just starting.
"I just needed to believe in what I was doing out there and keep the faith, basically," Hingis said. "I felt like I was tired, so I was like, `Come on, she can't play like this all the time.' But she would throughout the whole match. It was not too many ups-and-downs in the whole match."
Both Hingis and Seles took their best shots from the baseline. moving the other around, seeking an opening. Seles finished with 53 winners four more than Hingis but had 31 unforced errors five more than Hingis.
Hingis lost her serve in the second game of the second set, only to break right back.
Following the third game, both players looked exhausted and Seles began stretching her left leg. It also was an omen.
"Today I was very defensive," Hingis said, "and she had so much power, she took her chances and she also served very well."
Seles, who won the championships three straight years when she ruled women's tennis, had the harder time holding her serve, however. In the fifth game of the second set, one that took seven minutes to play, she had to battle through four deuces before finally holding with a sizzling backhand down the line.
She followed by breaking Hingis at 30, taking a 4-2 lead and only needing to hold serve to win her fourth title.
It didn't take long for Hingis to reply. She broke Seles' serve in the next game at love and again in the ninth game, this time from deuce. And when she held at 30 in the 10th gae, she had captured the second set and leveled the match.
"I think my serve let me down a little bit and Martina picked up her game," Seles said. "That's what champions do, and that's why she won today and that's what I missed today."
On the changeover, a trainer came onto the court to work on Seles' hip flexor, one of a series of injuries that kept her off the court for nearly two months after the Sydney Olympics, where she won the bronze medal.
Seles had not practiced for this event and entered only because it was the last championships she would play because of the move to Germany. Seles has refused to play in Germany since she was stabbed during a tournament in Hamburg in 1993. Her assailant, Guenter Parche, was never jailed.
The final set began with three service breaks, Hingis winding up with a 2-1 lead. Serving for the match, Hingis double-faulted on the first championship point. But she followed with her fifth ace of the afternoon, then began crying in joy when a forehand service return by Seles found the tape and never made it over.
"I'm happy it's done. It's behind me," Hingis said. "But it was definitely a very good match. I mean high level. It was a long one, too."
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