Not long before the start of the 2013 season, the player-turned-coach had expressed an interest in another WTA comeback. Returning to the Manchester Athletic Club to face the Boston Lobsters, Hingis has fond memories of where that dream first began.
“It’s amazing to be back; I remember when I played Jill Craybas here before, years back,” Hingis told wtt.com after playing her first match of Mylan WTT’s 40th season last Thursday.
“I had it in the back of my head to always come back and play some doubles. But playing here is really kind of what got it started.”
Many will remember how Hingis had used her debut season of Mylan WTT to launch a singles comeback in 2005. But at 32 years old, the Swiss star saw the league as a springboard into something more team-oriented this time around.
“I’ve had two comebacks with Team Tennis: first in the singles, now in the doubles. The coaching has definitely helped and, obviously, still playing with the girls. I was like ‘Ah, maybe I am still good enough to play at least half of the court!’”
A 13-time women’s and mixed doubles Grand Slam champion, Hingis has found success with a whole host of partners, but had never played with Mylan WTT veteran Anastasia Rodionova before joining the Kastles.
“Martina is a great player, doesn’t matter what she’s playing -- singles, doubles, or mixed,” Rodionova confessed before the season. “So once we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we could figure out our best game plan when we go on the court, and I think we did pretty good last year, and hopefully we will continue.”
With the help of Rodionova in women’s doubles and Leander Paes in mixed, Hingis has been virtually unstoppable in Mylan WTT’s unique format, taking home two more King Trophies along with the 2013 Female MVP and 2014 Finals MVP Awards. Her success in the league began to translate in style last summer when she and partner Flavia Pennetta reached the US Open final -- Hingis’ first major final of any kind since 2006.
At the following major tournament, she paired with Paes to capture the Australian Open mixed doubles title, a win that precipitated a swift rise back up the rankings and culminated in two more major titles at Wimbledon -- women’s doubles with Sania Mirza and mixed once more with Paes.
“He kind of got me back into playing the Grand Slams together and winning the Australian Open, and now Wimbledon. I’m really thrilled at winning another Slam and believing in myself, that I still ‘got game,’” Hingis exclaimed with a laugh. “We feel very fortunate and I feel fortunate to have him as a partner.
“Hopefully we can get another winning streak going!”
Hingis made a triumphant return to Mylan WTT last week, helping the Kastles regain their dominance after some early struggles. Though she had been away, technology meant she was never too far behind.
“I was following every match on the live scores, especially the last few. When they’re winning, it’s easy; you only congratulate them. When things are tough, you tell them to keep your head up. I was in constant contact with [Kastles owner] Mark Ein and Murphy Jensen. I would text them, ‘Good luck!’”
Showing few signs of rust in her 2015 debut, she captured both women’s doubles and mixed before stepping out to play a surprising set of singles -- her first since last spring --and defeat No. 1 Mylan WTT Draft Pick Irina Falconi, 5-3.
“It was a little weird, after having played so much doubles. Actually a few days ago, I just played a practice singles set and I was like ‘Oh yeah!’ Last time I played was in the Fed Cup, so it’s been a while. It’s fun, it’s like getting used to it. Hopefully during the season I get better.”
A third straight Mylan WTT victory for Hingis would also mean a first-ever five-peat for the Washington Kastles, who are undefeated when the Swiss Miss headlines their squad. Coming from the lawns of London, the current doubles No. 2 is well practiced in pressure, and has relied on the team dynamic to get her through tough moments -- none tougher than the Kastles’ comeback win over the California Dream on Monday.
“When you play a tournament in WTA or Grand Slam, there is so much more stress. But here you’ve got the whole team behind you. The team spirit is always there, even on an off day. Your team gets you going and you bounce back. It sometimes gets hard and it’s not always easy with the travelling and all that.
“But still, you don’t want to disappoint the team and you have so much more responsibility.”
It has been a long road for Hingis and the Kastles, but with another King Trophy in sight, it appears greatness lies at the end of the tunnel.