Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Martina Hingis on Federer's Wimbledon win, and failed Olympic team-up
WASHINGTON — A year after she made waves in Switzerland and in the tennis world with the revelation that she had been asked by Roger Federer about coming out of retirement to play mixed doubles with him for Switzerland at the London Olympics, Martina Hingis seems content with where the year has taken her — even if that’s not to the Games.
Hingis, 31, and Federer, 30, ultimately agreed that it was in his interest to focus his energies on singles and on defending his 2008 gold medal in men’s doubles with his partner, Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I was kind of flattered that he asked me, but at the end we decided not to play,” Hingis said in an interview Thursday in Washington before a World Team Tennis match. Hingis and Federer reached the mutual decision during a phone call in November. It was at her visit to Washington for World Team Tennis in 2011 that Hingis first disclosed that she had been asked to consider a comeback by one of Federer’s coaches.
“I mean, I would have to get back into great shape, playing doubles or mixed doubles at the Grand Slams,” Hingis, who retired in 2007 and is now working as a coach for junior prospects in Paris, said of her reasons for not wanting to return to competition. “And him, having finished up the season so well, he had a great opportunity, his sights on getting back where he is today.
“He kind of felt that feeling, that tingling sensation that he had a chance. And you could see when he was winning those indoor events that he felt like, O.K., he beat Nadal, he beat Djokovic, so maybe he has his opportunities to do it at a Grand Slam. And now at Wimbledon it just all came back together. And wow, back to No. 1, and being able to have only 20 days in between, this is his chance to win the Olympics as well.
“So that’s what I said back then: ‘If I was your coach? I would tell you you have to focus on the singles.’
“He became No. 1, he won Wimbledon. So all his dreams, they got realized. And now having the pole position to win the Olympics, the one thing he hasn’t got yet, I think is a great opportunity.”
“I haven’t seen Roger in such fantastic shape in two and a half, three years, since the last time he won a Grand Slam,” Hingis said. “I think the moment Nadal loses at a Grand Slam, he felt like this is his opportunity. I think mentally, Nadal, for him, is such a barrier, that once he lost he saw the draw open — and he’s not afraid of Djokovic. He never was, and I think every time he sees the opportunity to beat him. And although he didn’t a couple times — U.S. Open, match points — but he beat him last year. So I think he’s not afraid of someone like Djokovic, but Nadal is not his kind of player.
“But wow, the matches, the tennis he produced in the semifinals, finals. There’s not much to say. Wow. And I think also it helped him that the roof was closed, it felt more like playing indoors. Sometimes everything falls in place, and this was his year.”
Though the two ultimately decided against the potential Olympic partnership, Hingis seemed to have enjoyed the excitement surrounding the possibility that she and Federer might team up, calling the sudden attention and speculation “unbelievable.”
“I think both of us, we didn’t think that it’s going to be such an explosion, you know?” Hingis said. “The people kept asking me, ‘So, you’re playing with Federer?’ and all that: ‘That’s great! Wish you luck!’ And I’m like, ‘Well, we haven’t decided!’ ”
“Then when we decided not to play, everyone was like, ‘Aw, it would have been so great.’ But yeah, I loved that kind of positive attitude about it.”
But though she enjoyed the encouragement, it seemed Hingis was perhaps most daunted by the possibility of facing one particular opponent — Serena Williams, the Wimbledon champion, who may not enter the mixed doubles competition.
“Really, it’s for people who are out there right now,” she said of the Olympics. “If we had to face some team like, I don’t know, Serena and Roddick, or Serena and like one of the Bryan brothers — I mean, this is crazy! I mean, I would play with Roger, but I’m not the same player as when I was winning Grand Slams.”
Hingis, who sat in the royal box at Wimbledon’s Centre Court to watch the women’s final for a second straight year, took special notice of Williams’s record-setting serving.
“Twenty-four aces?” Hingis said in disbelief, citing the number Williams struck in her straight-set win over Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. “That was probably the aces I did in a whole season! And she does it in one match.”