Saturday, December 10, 2016

Martina Hingis: Women's tennis hasn't become smarter

She was once the pre-eminent player in women's tennis, dazzling fans all over the world with her uncanny court craft and sublime skills.

Martina Hingis is 36 now, and owns five Grand Slam singles titles.

She was in town over the last few days playing for the UAE Royals in the Singapore leg of the Coca-Cola International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

Once known as the Swiss Miss, she is now a doubles star, forming a brilliant partnership with India's Sania Mirza.

On Thursday, Hingis spoke to the media here, and was blunt about the current state of the women's game.

Said Hingis: "I think the material, like the strings for example, have all changed. Everything has had an evolution.

"But I would not necessarily say that the women's tennis game has made progress in becoming a smarter game.

"I think before, education in the players was stronger, now it's more individual and one-sided. There are only a few players left who are creative and are strategic players.

"I would not say the standard of the game has improved.

"The depth is getting more physical, but not the quality."

Hingis was never known for having a power game and there is a school of thought she was hurried out of the game early because of the dominance of Serena and Venus Williams.

What she had in abundance was tennis skills, which led to her becoming the the youngest Grand Slam singles winner in the 20th century when she won the 1997 Australian Open at age 16 years and 3 months.

Back in her day, Hingis said "power-play" was common, but other styles also flourished.

"When you talk to me about power-play, I am familiar with it because I was around when there was power-play," she asserted.

"I think it was more difficult for the power players at that time to succeed, because there was Justine (Henin), (Amelie) Mauresmo, there were different players that had game, even Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario had a winning record against Serena."

Hingis returned to the court in 2005 but was suspended in 2007 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for substance abuse.

She continued to play exhibition matches before making a comeback in doubles in 2013, and has won three Grand Slam titles with India's Sania Mirza.

When asked why she decided to return as a doubles player, she said she just decided to take a chance.

Said Hingis: "I was playing doubles with Sabine Lisicki in Miami in 2013, winning the tournament and it felt good.

"That was when I realised I still had some game in me and this would definitely be the last chance to actually play.

"It's not like I have 10 years ahead of me.

"It was always at the back of my head to come back and play some doubles, so that's what I did it and everything now is all a bonus which is unbelievable."

Hingis had some epic matches against Serena and she acknowledged the longevity of the American superstar, whom many have hailed as the greatest in the history of the game.

Hingis is one of a few to have beaten both Serena and Venus at the same tournament, the 2001 Australian Open, only to lose in the final to Jennifer Capriati.

When asked about her games against the Williams sisters, she said: "I enjoyed playing those matches because I think it always brings the best tennis out of us.

"I still see comments which show that people enjoy watching the games that I played against the Williams sisters.

"That's quite nice."

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