MUMBAI: Martina Hingis never forgot to be a tennis player; she never really forgot to be a star either. Once a teenage prodigy, the Swiss Miss has transformed into a doubles diva, elevating the game to a new, exciting level. Having wowed crowds all over the world this year, winning four Grand Slams in the process, two in women’s doubles and two in mixed, Hingis again stole the show in a room full of tennis stars on the eve of the Champions Tennis League.
There was Thomas Muster, Richard Krajicek and Thomas Johannson. Grand Slam champions all. But even their combined tally faded in comparison to her stellar trophy collection: five singles Slams, eleven women’s doubles and five mixed doubles Slams. Dressed in European black chic, the elegant player had her own separate interaction with the media after the rest had dispersed.
Twenty-one years since she turned pro, and having come back from two retirements, Hingis was still holding court. “I’ve always loved competing,” said Hingis of her love-hate relationship with tennis. “I didn’t really stop playing tennis when I retired (the second time). I was enjoying it from the sidelines, helping players out. Players like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. I think the biggest success was Sabine Lisicki, and when I played doubles with her (in 2014) that’s when I realized that I could still do it. And it was time to put ‘me’ back into focus in my tennis life.”
While Hingis attracts crowd world over, she has a special connect with India. Through Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, Hingis won the Australian Open and Wimbledon mixed doubles with Paes while Mirza and her have been the best pair on the women’s doubles circuit by a mile. They joined forces in March, won Wimbledon and US Open and also clinched the season-ending WTA Finals.
“With Leander, I always knew we were a good pair,” said Hingis in Mumbai. “We had been playing well in the World Team Tennis (US-based League). Sania and I just struck a great rapport right from the beginning. She is a very optimistic person and gives that energy to the team.
“I know that when I am playing with Leander I have to stay behind while he takes care of the net. With Sania it’s the opposite; I think as a doubles player that is my biggest asset, to adjust to my partners and give them the best chance to play to their strengths. Also, I know that as players they are very different but they are both very happy people. Easy to get along, maybe it is something about their education or their culture.”