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‘Game gave me the world’

- There are no words to explain how I feel: Martina Hingis
Rod Laver and Martina Hingis in Newport, on Saturday

Newport: Martina Hingis was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, becoming one of the youngest members to be enshrined in one of the sport’s most elite clubs.

The 32-year-old from Switzerland was among a distinguished class of inductees who were formally inducted at Newport, Rhode Island.

Hingis, who was seemingly born to play tennis and succeeded in fulfilling her destiny, told the crowd she was humbled by the honour.

“Thank you, tennis. You gave me the world,” she said.

“And now I am honestly out of words, because there are no words to explain what I feel. You chose to give me a place here for eternity.”

Hingis became the fourth youngest player to be inducted, following Tracy Austin (30), Bjorn Borg (31) and Hana Mandlikova (32).

Born in Czechoslovakia and named after Martina Navratilova, Hingis announced her arrival on the world stage when she won the 1993 French Open junior title at just 12 years of age.

She turned professional two weeks before her 14th birthday and went on to achieve a series of youngest-ever records.

Hingis won five Grand Slam singles titles — the Australian Open in 1997, 1998 and 1999, Wimbledon in 1997 and US Open in 1997 — and held the No. 1 ranking for 209 weeks.

She also won nine Grand Slam doubles titles and a mixed doubles title before injuries forced her into early retirement at the age of 22.

Hingis made a comeback four years later but retired after testing positive for cocaine. She denied using the drug but retired without fighting the ban.

“My biggest influence was my mom because she was a professional player, too,” Hingis said during a news conference before the ceremony. “She initiated me into tennis when I was 2 years old. Another was Martina Navratilova, obviously — (my mom) gave me the name so that was the destiny that was programmed already. When I started playing at 2 years old, that was the path. I was destined to play tennis.”

The International Tennis Hall of Fame president Stan Smith said Hingis was a worthy recipient.

“Having achieved world No. 1 status in both singles and doubles and having won an incredible 15 Grand Slam titles, Martina Hingis is undoubtedly one of the world’s elite tennis players, and we are glad to pay tribute to her among the legends of the sport,” Smith said.

Also enshrined were 94-year-old Australian great Thelma Coyne Long, who was inducted in the master player category, and Ion Tiriac, Cliff Drysdale and Charlie Pasarell, who were inducted for their contributions to tennis.