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Martina Hingis interview: Doubles talk with the five-time slam winner

Ian Horne in News 1 Jul 2014

Hingis will partner Flavia Pennetta during the American hard court swing. (Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

1997 champ Martina Hingis is one of the greatest WTA competitors to have taken to the Wimbledon lawns. We spoke to the Swiss star about her recent return to action.

Hingis competed at Wimbledon last season, albeit in the Ladies' Invitation Doubles. Partnering Lindsay Davenport, she was able to win the exhibition draw for a third successive year, ousting Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna in the final. In the same month she went on to declare her competitive comeback.

This year she returned to SW19, the site of her slam-winning singles campaign in 1997, and a pair of doubles titles in 1996 and 1998. She paired with Vera Zvonareva for an attempt that fell short at the first hurdle, which wasn't helped by a tough draw that pitted them against fourth seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza.

This defeat hasn't been characteristic of Hingis' return, which has already brought her silverware. Partnering Wimbledon 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki, she was able to win the women's doubles at the Sony Open in Miami, and alongside Flavia Pennetta she was able to achieve a runner-up finish at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.

I was able to speak to Hingis about her doubles game last weekend at The Wimbledon Club, almost a year on from her comeback. She'd been running a coaching clinic for journalists and members of the club, which she delivered with plenty of enthusiasm and insight. Her advice even helped me find the T with a couple of serves, which unfortunately for my erratic self, is an incredible achievement.

When I talked to her afterwards I asked if her enjoyment of tennis had been the primary motivation for her return. She explained that her decision was influenced more by the realisation that she could still cut it with the active pros.

"I've always enjoyed playing," she replied. "I didn't play that much probably the first few years when I stopped. But then I just picked it up more again, and I just still felt like I could compete at that professional level, and I kind of proved it in Miami with Sabine and last week at Eastbourne, so it's kind of nice."

Hingis is yet to make any firm suggestions that she'll compete in singles again, and it seems as though this will be the case for the foreseeable future. "It's too physical," she said when I enquired further. "Singles you have to work out a lot harder. Doubles sometimes you still work out and play, but now you've just like gotta stay in shape and it's half the work, half the court."

"I've always loved doubles," she added. "Obviously I have more Grand Slam titles in doubles than I do in singles. It always helped my singles game too, and it was nice to have a partner. I had great partners over the years, you know, Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova. And with Anna Kournikova, those two years were some of the best during my career."

Besides Sukova, Novotna and Kournikova, Hingis has enjoyed slam doubles success alongside Natasha Zvereva, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Mary Pierce, and in mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi. I ask how she's recently gone about choosing who to play with. There doesn't appear to be much of a science to it.

"Last year Daniela really pushed for two months and was like 'you should play, we should try,'" she said. "It was fun, but we were not as successful probably as we wish."

"Then with Sabine I start working with her and she came out with the idea to play a couple of doubles matches before her singles. And I said 'ok, good idea, nice telling me one week before!' So I tried to do my best but second week already we won Miami, so that was really nice."

Hingis also explained that her recent partnership with Lisicki ended due to her desire to focus on her own game. Hingis had been coaching the German but found it tricky to balance this role with her own reemerging playing career. She doesn't rule out the possibility of competing with Lisicki again, but explained that Pennetta will be her partner throughout the American hard court swing.

And has she lost any of that competitive fire that brought her five singles slams and nine more in doubles? "It's always there," she said with a smile. "You kind of work with it and the adrenaline kicks in and everything. You always want to win, right?"


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Martina Hingis interview: Doubles talk with the five-time slam winner

1997 champ Martina Hingis is one of the greatest WTA competitors to have taken to the Wimbledon lawns. We spoke to the Swiss star about her recent return to action.

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