Martina Hingis is a retired Swiss professional tennis player who spent a total of 209 weeks as World No. 1. She won five Grand Slam singles titles (three Australian Opens, one Wimbledon, and one US Open). She also won nine Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, winning a calendar year doubles Grand Slam in 1998, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title.
Hingis set a series of “youngest-ever” records before ligament injuries in both ankles forced her to withdraw temporarily from professional tennis in 2002 at the age of 22. After several surgeries and long recuperations, Hingis returned to the WTA tour in 2006. She then climbed to world number 6 and won three singles titles. On 1 November 2007, Hingis announced her retirement from tennis after testing positive for cocaine during Wimbledon in 2007. She denied using the drug, but decided not to appeal the imminent ban.
In June 2011, she was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time.
Childhood and early career
Hingis was born in Košice, (then part of Czechoslovakia, now in modern Slovakia), to accomplished tennis players Melanie Molitorová and Karol Hingis. Molitorová was a professional tennis player, who was once ranked tenth among women in Czechoslovakia, and was determined to develop Hingis into a top player as early as pregnancy. Her father was ranked as high as nineteenth in the Czechoslovakian tennis rankings. Hingis’s parents divorced when she was six, and she and her mother relocated around a year later to Trübbach in Switzerland. Her father, who continued to live in Košice as a tennis coach, said in 1997 that he had seen little of his daughter after the split.
Hingis began playing tennis when she was two years old and entered her first tournament at age four. In 1993, 12-year-old Hingis became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam junior title: the girls’ singles at the French Open. In 1994, she retained her French Open junior title, won the girls’ singles title at Wimbledon, and reached the final of the US Open.
She made her professional debut in October 1994, two weeks after her 14th birthday. She ended the year ranked World No. 87, and in January 1995, she became the youngest player to win a match at a Grand Slam tournament when she advanced to the second round of the Australian Open.
Grand Slam success and period of dominance
In 1996, Hingis became the youngest Grand Slam champion of all time, when she teamed with Helena Suková at Wimbledon to win the women’s doubles title at age 15 years and 9 months. She also won her first professional singles title that year at Filderstadt, Germany. She reached the singles quarterfinals at the 1996 Australian Open and the singles semifinals of the 1996 US Open. Following her win at Filderstadt, Hingis defeated the reigning Australian Open champion and co-top ranked (with Steffi Graf) Monica Seles in the final at Oakland. Hingis then lost to Graf at the year-end WTA Tour Championships.
In 1997, Hingis became the undisputed World No. 1 women’s tennis player. She started the year by winning the warm-up tournament in Sydney. She then became the youngest Grand Slam singles winner in the 20th century by winning the Australian Open at age 16 years and 3 months (beating former champion Mary Pierce in the final). In March, she became the youngest top ranked player in history. In July, she became the youngest singles champion at Wimbledon since Lottie Dod in 1887 by beating Jana Novotná in the final. She then defeated another up-and-coming player, Venus Williams, in the final of the US Open. The only Grand Slam singles title that Hingis failed to win in 1997 was the French Open, where she lost in the final to Iva Majoli. She won the Australian Open women’s doubles with Natasha Zvereva.
In 1998, Hingis won all four of the Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, only the fourth in women’s tennis history to do so, (the Australian Open with Mirjana Lučić and the other three events with Novotná), and she became only the third woman to simultaneously hold the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles. She also retained her Australian Open singles title by beating Conchita Martínez in straight sets in the final. Hingis, however, lost in the final of the US Open to Lindsay Davenport. Davenport ended an 80-week stretch Hingis had enjoyed as the No. 1 singles player in October 1998, but Hingis finished the year by beating Davenport in the final of the WTA Tour Championships.
1999 saw Hingis win her third successive Australian Open singles crown as well as the doubles title (with Anna Kournikova). She then reached the French Open final and was three points away from victory in the second set before losing to Steffi Graf. During the match, Hingis had infuriated an already partisan crowd by arguing with the umpire over several line calls. In the second set, she crossed to the other side of the net to inspect her own ball mark, thereby incurring a mandatory one-point penalty. She was also booed for taking a bathroom break early in the final set, and twice delivering underhand serves. After the match, Hingis rushed from the court in tears, and only returned to the court for the trophy ceremony after being comforted by her mother. Following the French Open, Martina revealed at Wimbledon that her mother was no longer her coach. After a shock first-round 6–2, 6–0 loss to Jelena Dokić at Wimbledon, Hingis bounced back to reach her third consecutive US Open final, where she lost to Serena Williams. Hingis won a total of seven singles titles that year and reclaimed the No. 1 singles ranking. She also reached the final of the WTA Tour Championships, where she lost to Lindsay Davenport.
In 2000, Hingis again found herself in both the singles and doubles finals at the Australian Open. This time, however, she lost both. Her three-year hold on the singles championship ended when she lost to Davenport. Later, Hingis and Mary Pierce, her new doubles partner, lost to Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs. Hingis captured the French Open women’s doubles title with Pierce and produced consistent results in singles tournaments throughout the year. She reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before losing to Venus Williams. Although she did not win a Grand Slam singles tournament, she kept the year end No. 1 ranking because of nine tournament championships, including the WTA Tour Championships where she won the singles and doubles titles.
Injuries and hiatus from tennis
In 2001, Switzerland, with Hingis and Roger Federer on its team, won the Hopman Cup. Hingis was undefeated in singles during the event, defeating Tamarine Tanasugarn, Nicole Pratt, Amanda Coetzer, and Monica Seles.
Hingis reached her fifth consecutive Australian Open final in 2001, defeating both of the Williams sisters en route, before losing to Jennifer Capriati. She briefly ended her coaching relationship with her mother Melanie early in the year but had a change of heart two months later just before the French Open. 2001 was a her least successful year in several seasons, with only three tournament victories in total. She lost her No. 1 ranking for the last time (to Jennifer Capriati) on October 14, 2001. In that same month, Hingis underwent surgery on her right ankle.
Coming back from injury, Hingis won the Australian Open doubles final at the start of 2002 (again teaming with Anna Kournikova) and reached a sixth straight Australian Open final in singles, again facing Capriati. Hingis led by a set and 4–0 and had four match points but lost 4–6, 7–6, 6–2. In May 2002, she needed another ankle ligament operation, this time on her left ankle. After that, she continued to struggle with injuries and was not able to recapture her best form.
In February 2003, at the age of 22, Hingis announced her retirement from tennis, due to her injuries and being in pain. “I want to play tennis only for fun and concentrate more on horse riding and finish my studies” In several interviews, she indicated she wanted to go back to her country and coach full time.
During this segment of her tennis career, Hingis won 40 singles titles and 36 doubles events. She held the World No. 1 singles ranking for a total of 209 weeks (fourth most following Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert). In 2005, Tennis magazine put her in 22nd place in its list of 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS era.
Return to the game
In February 2005, Hingis made an unsuccessful return to competition at an event in Pattaya, Thailand, where she lost to Germany’s Marlene Weingärtner in the first round. After the loss, she claimed that she had no further plans for a comeback.
Hingis, however, resurfaced in July, playing singles, doubles, and mixed doubles in World Team Tennis and notching up singles victories over two top 100 players and shutting out Martina Navratilova in singles on 7 July. With these promising results behind her, Hingis announced on 29 November her return to the WTA Tour in 2006.
At the Australian Open, Hingis lost in the quarterfinals to second-seeded Kim Clijsters. However, Hingis won the mixed doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi of India. This was her first career Grand Slam mixed doubles title and fifteenth overall (5 singles, 9 women’s doubles, 1 mixed doubles).
The week after the Australian Open, Hingis defeated World No. 4 Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the Tier I Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo before losing in the final to World No. 9 Elena Dementieva. Hingis competed in Dubai then, reaching the quarter-finals before falling to Sharapova. At the Tier I Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, Hingis defeated World No. 4 Lindsay Davenport in the fourth round before again losing to Sharapova in the semifinals.
At the Tier I Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Hingis posted her 500th career singles match victory in the quarterfinals, beating World No. 18 Flavia Pennetta, and subsequently won the tournament with wins over Venus Williams in the semifinals and Dinara Safina in the final. This was her 41st Women’s Tennis Association tour singles title and first in more than four years. Hingis then reached the quarterfinals of the French Open before losing to Kim Clijsters.
At Wimbledon, Hingis lost in the third round to Ai Sugiyama.
Hingis’s return to the US Open was short lived, however, as she was upset in the second round by World No. 112 Virginie Razzano of France.
In her first tournament after the US Open, Hingis won the second title of her comeback at the Tier III Sunfeast Open in Kolkata, India. She defeated unseeded Russian Olga Poutchkova in the final. The following week in Seoul, Hingis notched her 50th match win of the year before losing in the second round to Sania Mirza.
Hingis qualified for the year-ending WTA Tour Championships in Madrid as the eighth seed. In her round robin matches, she lost in three sets to both Justine Henin and Amélie Mauresmo but defeated Nadia Petrova.
Hingis ended the year ranked World No. 7. She also finished eighth in prize money earnings (U.S.$1,159,537). Hingis too ranked as number 7 on the Annual Top Google News Searches in 2006.
At the Australian Open, Hingis won her first three rounds without losing a set before defeating China’s Li Na in the fourth round. Hingis then lost a quarterfinal match to Kim Clijsters. This was the second consecutive year that Hingis had lost to Clijsters in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the third time in the last five Grand Slam tournaments that Clijsters had eliminated Hingis in the quarterfinals.
Hingis won her next tournament, the Tier I Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, defeating Ana Ivanovic in the final. This was Hingis’s record fifth singles title at this event.
A hip injury that troubled her at the German Open caused her to withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where she was the defending champion, and the French Open, the only important singles title that eluded her.
In her first round match at Wimbledon, Hingis saved two match points to defeat British wildcard Naomi Cavaday, apparently not having fully recovered from the hip injury that prevented her from playing the French Open. In the third round, Hingis lost to Laura Granville of the United States, and stated afterwards she should not have entered the tournament.
Hingis’s next tournament was the last Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open, which she had won ten years ago for the first time. Hingis lost in the third round to Belarussian teenager Victoria Azarenka. Hingis did not play any tournaments after the China Open, as she was beset by injuries for the rest of the year.
In November, Hingis admitted that she was under investigation for testing positive for cocaine. She decided to retire. Hingis was handed a 2 year ban by the ITF for testing positive at Wimbledon, back dated to October at the start of 2008.
But Hingis maintained her innocence, saying, “I have tested positive but I have never taken drugs and I feel 100 percent innocent.” She also said, “I would personally be terrified of taking drugs. When I was informed [about the test] I was shocked and appalled.” She is not planning to contest the positive drug test because it could take years. “Because of my age and my health problems, I have also decided to retire from professional tennis.” The drug test results were released to Hingis after her third round loss to Laura Granville at Wimbledon, with both “A” and “B” urine samples failing the tests.
Hingis played an exhibition match at the Liverpool International tournament on 13 June 2008. Although this event was a warm-up for Wimbledon, it was not part of the WTA Tour. This allowed Hingis to participate without breaching the rules of her ban. In a rematch of their 1997 Wimbledon final, Hingis defeated Jana Novotná.
In 2009 Hingis partook in the BBC’s dancing competition, Strictly Come Dancing. She was the bookies favourite for the competition, but she went out in the first week after performing a Waltz and a Rumba. Despite vowing to win the competition, she promised to apply the same gritty approach to the dance show that had taken her to five grand slams on the tennis court. “Everything I do I do to win. I am very competitive.”
At the start of the year Hingis defeated former world number one Lindsay Davenport, and hinted at a possible return to tennis. In February, Martina announced she has committed to a full year with the World TeamTennis Tour in 2010. She had previously played for World Team Tennis in 2005 to assist her first comeback. Sparking thoughts that she was trying to come back to the WTA tour, she committed to playing at the Nottingham Masters. On 5 May 2010, it was announced that Anna Kournikova would reunite with her doubles partner Hingis. Kournikova was participating in competitive tennis for the first time in seven years, in the Invitational Ladies Doubles event at Wimbledon. Hingis also confirmed that she would play at the Tradition-ICAP Liverpool International championship in June 2010, preceding Wimbledon, before playing in the Manchester Masters after Wimbledon. Liverpool like the Nottingham and Manchester Masters are organised by her management company Northern Vision. At the Nottingham Masters, Hingis faced Michaëlla Krajicek (twice), Olga Savchuk and Monika Wejnert. Hingis won just once in the event, against Wejnert. After the Nottingham event Billie Jean King stated that she believed that Hingis may return to the WTA Tour on the doubles circuit, after competing in the WTT.
During Wimbledon in an interview with doubles partner Anna Kournikova, Hingis stated that she will not be returning to the tour; she has had her comeback before and it was fun.
On 5 June, Hingis, in team with Lindsay Davenport, won the Roland Garros Women’s Legends title, defeating Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna in the final, 6–1, 6–2. Before facing Navratilova/Novotna, Hingis and Davenport won two round robin matches in the tournament: first against Gigi Fernandez / Natasha Zvereva (6:1 6:3), and then in the next match they prevailed over Andrea Temesvari / Sandrine Testud 6:3 6:7 and 10:0 in the Super tie-break.
On 3 July, Hingis partnering Lindsay Davenport won the Wimbledon Ladies’ Invitation Doubles title defeating Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna in the final, 6–4, 6–4. She also played for the New York SPORTIMES of the World TeamTennis Pro League in July 2011. She finished the season with the top winning percentage of any player competing in Women’s Singles.
Hingis was renowned for her cerebral approach to the game of tennis and for her technical skills, enabling her to produce a wide array of shots with finesse. She lacked the power possessed by many of her contemporaries; therefore, she relied on low error-rates and good shot selection to keep opponents off-balance. She often used change of direction and pace to catch opponents off guard and sharp angles to open up the court. She was also well known for her ability to break long rallies by hitting accurate drop shots and coming to the net, where she was a skilled volleyer. A signature play of Hingis was the drop shot followed by a lob, often resulting in an easy volley or overhead to finish the point. Hingis often hit the ball extremely early by standing close to the baseline (or inside it) in order to take reaction time away from her opponent because she did not have sufficient power to hit winners past her opponents.
Hingis’s strongest groundstroke was her two-handed backhand, which had an extremely low error-rate and great variety. Her backhand down-the-line was among her signature shots and often the shot she chose to hit with greater pace to surprise opponents during a rally.
Hingis has dated Spanish golf player Sergio García and British footballer Sol Campbell. She was briefly engaged to Czech tennis player Radek Štěpánek, but split from him in August 2007. She has also dated former tennis players Magnus Norman, Ivo Heuberger and Julian Alonso. In March 2010, Hingis announced that she was engaged to marry Andreas Bieri, a Swiss attorney, but the engagement was later broken off.
On 10 December 2010 in Paris, she married then-24-year-old Thibault Hutin, an equestrian show jumper who she had met at a competition the previous April.
As a teenager, Martina Hingis was known for being outspoken. During her career, Hingis has made a number of statements about her fellow players that have subsequently become the focus of attention and the source of controversy, such as:
- Referring to Amélie Mauresmo‘s muscular build on the eve of their 1999 Australian Open final, Hingis told reporters, “She’s half a man.”
- When asked in the late 1990s how she felt about the budding rivalry between herself and the then-up-and-coming Anna Kournikova, Hingis responded, “What rivalry? I win all the matches.”
- After the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena) had complained of discrimination against them, Hingis told Time magazine in 2001: “Being black only helps them. Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of advantages because they can always say, ‘It’s racism.’ They can always come back and say, ‘Because we are this color, things happen.’”
- At the peak of the Williams sisters’ and Hingis’ competitive and fierce rivalry, Hingis stated in a press conference during the 1999 US Open referring to the sisters’ remarks, “They always have big mouths. They always talk a lot. It’s happened before, so it’s gonna happen again. I don’t really worry about that.”
- On the long-dominant player, Steffi Graf, Hingis said, “Steffi has had some results in the past, but it’s a faster, more athletic game now than when she played. She is old now. Her time has passed.” (Hingis made this comment in 1998 while Graf was on an injury-related hiatus from tennis, and before Hingis lost against the German player in the 1999 French Open final).
- Responding in a 1999 press conference on why she terminated her doubles partnership with former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotná, Hingis remarked, “She’s old and slow.”