Calcutta: To reach the pinnacle at the tender age of 16 years and five months and to be forced to give it all up by 22 — many thought the Martina Hingis fairytale was over.
But the young lady is made of sterner stuff. Which is why she is where she is today — at world No. 9. And showing clear signs of moving up further, to the position which was hers not so many years ago.
She already had five Grand Slam singles titles to her credit before the forced break. But in the three-odd years that she was off the circuit, the power factor has evolved a lot. Did she work on this facet when she was away' Is she more comfortable with her game now'
“The idea is to not give your opponents time to use that power,” said Hingis, during an exclusive interview with The Telegraph. “Over the years, tennis equipment has evolved — improved rackets, new products. Speed, too, is a key factor. So, weapons are many. You just need to know how to use them.”
In the years that she was away from the game, what did she learn about herself' Did she discover herself anew' “I wasn’t on a process of self-discovery … I did all the normal things one does around the house like cooking… I did skiing, horse riding… I was into a relationship then… But in spite of everything I did, I had too much time on my hands.”
During that hiatus she watched a lot of tennis and did some television commentary as well. Did that help her get a better insight into her contemporaries'
“Not really,” replied the 26-year-old, pondering a wee bit. “My knowledge about the players now is the same as it was when I was on the circuit before. What I discovered was the behind-the-scenes stuff, like what it took to organise a tournament.”
Hingis’ mother, Melanie Molitor, has been her coach from the beginning. And she still takes all Hingis’ tennis-related decisions, like devising strategy, improving technique and generally “trying to figure out what is best” for her.
“There are a lot of new faces on the circuit, whose games have to be observed and figured out. For instance, I had never played Melinda (Czink, whom she defeated in the first round of the Sunfeast Open on Monday) before.”
There have been instances of players running into trouble with their parent-coach. Jelena Dokic being a case in point. She’s been lucky on this, hasn’t she'
“Problem with one’s parent/parents is universal. And it’s not specific to tennis — or any other sport as such. The problem is, when you are in the limelight, you are watched by so many people. Which puts you under pressure and you have to handle it.
“It all depends on one’s family, how she was raised, the player’s intelligence… There will always be some such confrontations.”
Has she set any target for herself, like winning Slam No. 6' “No,” was the firm answer. “I just concentrate on trying to play better. Victories will come automatically.”
And how does she look at life after tennis, when she finally decides to move on'
“A family, certainly, a daughter maybe, whom I will not name Martina,” she laughed.
“I’m not afraid of life after tennis,” she signed off.