WTA Finals Singapore 2017

WTA Finals: Hingis happy to slam door shut

Martina Hingis serving during her last doubles match yesterday. The world No. 1 doubles player said she has no regrets about her decision to quit the game.
Martina Hingis serving during her last doubles match yesterday. The world No. 1 doubles player said she has no regrets about her decision to quit the game.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Tributes for former world No. 1 as she walks away from the sport for a third time

If you type the words "Swiss" and "genius" into Google, the first result is a scientist and the second is a video of Roger Federer.

And yet long before the 19-time Grand Slam champion dazzled with his elegant playing style and court craft, it was Martina Hingis who kept the tennis world talking about her cleverness and shot selection.

The 37-year-old, who won the French Open junior singles title at 12, yesterday played her last professional match, losing 4-6, 6-7 (5-7) with partner Chan Yung-jan to Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.

Hingis, a former world No. 1 in singles, ends her illustrious career as the joint-top ranked women's doubles player (with Chan) and with a total of 25 Grand Slam titles - five in singles, 13 in women's doubles and seven in mixed doubles.

This is her third retirement from professional tennis. In 2003, at age 22, she left the sport for the first time due to injury, but returned to competition in 2006.

The following year, she called it quits after receiving a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine.

Hingis' former opponents and partners praised her ingenuity on court and ability to read the game.

Mahesh Bhupathi, who won the 2006 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Hingis, hailed the latter as "the greatest doubles player in our sport".

"(I) have never seen the creativity and ability she has on court with any of my other partners," the Indian told The Sunday Times. "She always hit the right shot in the open space."

Retired doubles specialist Rennae Stubbs, who defeated Hingis in the 2000 Australian Open women's doubles final for her first Grand Slam title, believes the Swiss still has "the best hands in the game".

"(She) always had guile and understanding... she understood doubles is about position, not power," said the Australian. "I used to love to play her because it was a huge challenge."

Federer, who won the 2001 Hopman Cup with Hingis, also paid tribute to his compatriot. AFP quoted him as saying: "Martina was partially the one who showed me how it was all done. It was great for Switzerland to have someone of her calibre. We were very lucky."

Hingis announced her arrival on the professional tennis scene in 1996 when she became the youngest Grand Slam champion of all time, winning the women's doubles title at Wimbledon, aged 15 years and nine months.

She then became the youngest Grand Slam singles winner after capturing the 1997 Australian Open at age 16. It was the first of her five Major singles titles.

Less than three months later, she became the youngest singles world No. 1 in history. Much of her life was lived in the spotlight and almost inevitably it included some controversy. She had a testy relationship with Serena and Venus Williams and in 1999 described the American family as having "a big mouth".

Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena, had also said 10 years ago that the 1.7m Hingis' legs were "too short" to run down the ball, and that he would refer her to someone who could "saw her legs off and attach new legs that are a couple of inches longer".

Nonetheless, Venus was gracious when asked about Hingis' retirement yesterday, saying: "I remember her telling me about a year ago, you know, it was, like, 'Oh, it would be fun to play together'. And she's, like, 'Yeah, we should do it soon. Time's running out'."

"Now I get it. I would have loved to have played doubles with her. Maybe she will come back and play with me one more time," she added with a smile.

There was also a dramatic meltdown during her 1999 French Open final loss against Steffi Graf, which ended with Hingis crying on her mother's shoulder throughout the trophy presentation ceremony.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam singles title to elude the Swiss, but she maintained she is ending her career with no regrets.

Speaking at her final post-match press conference yesterday, Hingis said: "Of course there are some matches I'd like to play over, but some of them, I imagine I also got lucky to get away with wins, whether singles or doubles.

"Overall I'm very proud of my career, and I wouldn't change anything with anybody."

•Additional reporting by Rohit Brijnath

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Hingis happy to slam door shut'. Print Edition | Subscribe