Martina Hingis: A phoenix that twice rose from the ashes
Martina Hingis' tennis career was nothing less than a hurdle race but she smashed every problem just as elegantly as her volleys on court.
Martina Hingis' list of accolades is simply astonishing. The Swiss Miss boasts of five Grand Slam singles titles, thirteen Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and seven Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, that add up to an astounding 25 Grand Slam titles in total!
Not only that, she is also the youngest ever Grand Slam champion and she achieved this momentous feat at the age of just 15 years and 9 months. She completed the calendar year women’s doubles Grand Slam in 1998 at the tender age of just 18, which is unbelievable.
Apart from these accomplishments, she reigned at the pinnacle of the WTA Rankings for 209 weeks, has an Olympic Silver from the 2016 Rio Games and the list does not even end here.
Hingis recently bid adieu to the love of her life -- tennis. It was her third retirement from the game but she made sure she retired as a legend. She won the women’s doubles and the mixed doubles titles at the US Open at the age of 36 and was at the top of the women’s doubles rankings when she retired. That's the sign of a true legend!
The Czechoslovak-born Swiss tennis player, considered as one of the best in the game, had to go through a lot of ups and downs in her career. But her never-say-die attitude has helped her not only on the court but also to tackle off-court problems.
Martina was named after Martina Navratilova, arguably the greatest tennis player the game has ever seen. And if we go through Hingis’ trophy cabinet one more time, it only makes the name 'Martina' bigger than it already is. Martina’s parents were professional tennis players and it helped her a lot as she first picked up the racquet at the age of just 2 years. She entered her first ever tournament at the age of four. Her mother was her coach in her childhood and in the years to come.
Hingis was always destined for greatness and she announced herself with junior titles at the French Open and Wimbledon. In October of 1994, she turned pro at the age of just 14. She ended the 1994 season ranked 87th in the world. A star had arrived!
Tracing her journey
There was no looking back after that. She went on to become the youngest ever Grand Slam champion, when she won the women’s doubles title at 1996 Wimbledon. 1998 was a year to remember for Martina as she won the Calendar Slam in women’s doubles and also retained the singles title at the Australian Open.
She also became the undisputed queen of WTA when she held the No. 1 rankings in both singles and doubles that made her only the third woman to do so in tennis history. Martina went on to win 14 Grand Slam titles between 1996 and 2002, which included five singles and nine women’s doubles titles.
But, it unfortunately took a toll on her body. And in February 2003, Hingis retired from the game at just 22 years of age due to injuries.
The second innings
Martina came back from retirement in 2006 and won the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open with Mahesh Bhupathi. She realized that giving up singles and playing only in doubles will help her stay away from injuries due to less physical load. Unfortunately, she was tested positive in a drug test conducted during 2007 Wimbledon and was banned for two years.
But if you have passion and love for something like Martina has for tennis, nothing can stop you. She made another phenomenal comeback in 2013 and this comeback is certainly on the top of the list as one of the best in the sport’s history.
The stunning third act
After her fighting start in 2014, she paired up with Leander Paes in mixed doubles. Three months into the 2015 season, she teamed up with another Indian -- Sania Mirza -- in women’s doubles.
The decision to play with the Indians did wonders for the Swiss as she won four mixed doubles Grand Slams with Paes and three consecutive Grand Slams with Mirza in 2015-16.
There is something about Martina that will keep your eyes glued to the screen when she is playing. She is not a powerful stroke player like Serena but her court awareness and ability to change pace and spin on shots make her unbeatable on any given day. When she is on a roll, her drop shots and volleys are the last thing you will want to face.
Her game near the net is as good as it gets. This was one of the reasons behind her success with Mirza, as the Indian is a very strong player at the baseline and Martina is just a treat to watch near the net. For Martina, tennis is much like the game of chess where she anticipates where the opponent will run and places the shot perfectly based on those calculations, thus totally outfoxing her opponents.
Hingis is not just a winner on the court but with her two comebacks, she is a living legend with love for the game and the fortitude to live for it. Thank you for the memories, Martina.