Saturday, September 30, 2006

Martina's interview with Gulfnews

Published: 09/30/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)
'I certainly want to add Roland Garros to my kitty'

By A Correspondent

Kolkata: Martina Hingis was the little Swiss Miss who was named after the grand dame of women's tennis a certain Martina Navratilova.

And when she started her career with nine Grand Slam finals in three seasons and five victories, it appeared she could even beat the number of titles held by her namesake.

But then injuries took their toll on Hingis and while her male compatriot Roger Federer was conquering the men's game, she retired from the WTA Tour a victim of her chronic injuries.

However, she never lost her iron-will throughout her time on the sidelines and finally made it back to the court and showed tremendous fighting spirit and skill to gain a world ranking of number nine.

Just a few days before her 26th birthday (September 30), Hingis spoke to Gulf News in Kolkata where she was playing in the Sunfeast Open. Following are excerpts.

Gulf News: How tough was is to stage a comeback after a three-year layoff?

Hingis: It is very difficult, really. But once you decide to do something, you should never be worried about the difficulty of the task. You have to go on doing what is required of you and if you can keep at it you will get what you deserve.

Considering that all of your Grand Slam success was during your teenage years, do you consider yourself a burnout case?

No, Never. For me, injuries forced me out of the tour and nothing else. I was doing extremely well but then the injuries came relentlessly and I had to take a break. At that point I was not sure whether I would be able to stage a comeback so I decided to quit. And last year when I felt I was okay, I begun my journey again.

What changes have you observed in the game since your return?

Well, it has moved its own way. Nothing will stop for you in life, you have to be ready to keep up the pace with it. The game has become more powerful, thanks to the Williams Sisters. They used their power intelligently on the court and with it made the game more athletic. Martina Navratilova was the pioneer on this front though, then Steffi Graf did her bit and recently it's the Williams sisters.

In this era of power-packed women tennis players, what does a comparatively frail girl like Martina Hingis need to do to stay competitive? Does she increase her gym work or spend more time in practicing on courts ...

I always believed that my strongest point is in my court coverage. For that I need to stay as light as possible. It is a part of my game to keep the ball in play as much as possible so that my powerful opponents become tired while sending the ball back to me. That is when I have my chances. So I have to continue doing the same things while trying to add a few more aspects to my game like service and net-play. I'm trying to develop these two parts of my game.

You have three Australian Open titles, one each of Wimbledon and the US Open. But there is no French Open yet …

Yes and I certainly want to add a title from Roland Garros to my kitty. I went so close to winning it in 1999 when I was just three points from the title, when Steffi made a great comeback.

You have now played twice against India's Sania Mirza. What do you think about her game?

When I first played her in Dubai last February, I was really surprised to see the quality of her ground strokes. This time I was better prepared to face her. Her backhand has improved a bit and she is a wonderful talent but she needs to keep on improving.


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