Published January 13, 2015
Martina Hingis was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame less than two weeks ago, then resurfaced on the WTA this week to play some doubles in California.
Following an almost six-year absence, the "Swiss Miss" returned a doubles winner Wednesday night at the Southern California Open in Carlsbad playing alongside tour veteran Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. It doesn't really matter who they beat in that match, what matters is that Hingis may be using the doubles activity as a springboard back into the singles fray.
Hingis is scheduled to play doubles with Hantuchova in four events, including the U.S. Open later this month.
The five-time Grand Slam singles champ has insisted that she will play doubles only.
"It's a different world," said the now 32-year-old native of Czechoslovakia. "Even Team Tennis now, it's brutal. It's only one set, but still like the next day I wake up and you have to put so much more effort into it. Playing tournaments, that's the easy part. It's all the grind behind it, behind the scenes that people don't see. The six straight hours of training. At 17, everything seemed to be so easy. Now. I'm almost twice the age."
Hingis had previously retired from the tour on two occasions, for the first time in early 2003 and then again in November of 2007.
"I always had it in the back of my head in the last six years," said Hingis, who has spent the last two years coaching. "Now, being so much closer to it, being closer to the game, closer to the matches, I was like let's try it again and see if I can have a great time."
Hingis' first retirement was prompted by a chronic ankle injury that she blamed on her shoemaker, Adidas, as she sat out for three years before returning to action in 2006. Retirement No. 2 came after she tested positive for cocaine following a third-round loss at Wimbledon in '07.
Although Hingis proclaimed her innocence at the time, she retired rather than fight the charges.
Hingis, who held the No. 1 ranking for an amazing 209 weeks, good enough for fourth best on the women's all-time list, wasn't the same player during her initial comeback.
Back in the day, the Swiss star was the youngest-ever Grand Slam singles champion at 16 years, three months when she captured the first of three straight Australian Open titles in 1997, and would later become the youngest woman to reach No. 1 on her way to over $20 million in career prize money.
Her last WTA singles match occurred in September 2007, resulting in a second-round loss against China's Peng Shuai in Beijing.
But recently, Hingis' fellow former world No. 1 tennis great and good friend Lindsay Davenport commented that Hingis was using doubles to launch a full- fledge comeback this fall.
Hingis has played Team Tennis the last two years and helped lead the Washington Kastles to their most-recent championship, earning a second straight MVP award on that circuit.
"It's kind of weird just to play doubles," Hingis said. "Team Tennis always gets you in great shape. Being the MVP, that helps, I guess, the confidence. I played a lot more the last two years than I did in the first three years when I stopped.
"I don't have any expectations. Obviously, I wouldn't put myself in this position if I didn't feel fine enough to be able compete at this level. We'll see. Team Tennis, it was good enough. Will it be good enough in this world? It's another question."
Hingis has 43 career singles titles to her credit and is also an outstanding doubles performer, piling up nine Grand Slam titles, including a calendar-year Slam (all four majors) in 1998, among her 37 doubles championships. She also won a mixed doubles major at the '06 Aussie Open.
The soft-hitting Hingis is known as a cerebral player who possesses fine technical skills and deft hands. She likes to baffle opponents with variety, including an array of drop shots and finesse lobs.
In her personal life, Hingis has dated the likes of Spanish golf star Sergio Garcia, fellow tennis players Magnus Norman, Ivo Heuberger and Julian Alonso, English soccer player Sol Campbell, and was briefly engaged to fellow tennis star Radek Stepanek, who would later marry fellow Czech tennis player Nicole Vaidisova.
In March 2010, Hingis announced that she was engaged to Swiss attorney Andreas Bieri, but the engagement was later broken off. In December 2010, she married equestrian jumper Thibault Hutin. Hingis herself is an avid horse rider/jumper.
As far as the tennis is concerned, will she actually return to play singles on the WTA this year?
My guess is that she will.