Calcutta: Finally, the wait came to an end. The city got to see the former world No. 1, Martina Hingis, in action against Melinda Czink in the first round of the Sunfeast Open. And watched awe-struck as she steamrolled Czink 6-1, 6-2 in a mere 47 minutes.
On court for a brief chat after the match, she laughed at the suggestion that she was in a hurry as she had an appointment to keep. And added that she hoped to have several such appointments all through the week.
At a press meet soon after, Hingis spoke at length about her game and everything else.
Following are excerpts
So, how did you feel about the match today?
I played really well. Melinda is a good player. Moreover, she beat the crowd favourite Sania Mirza here last year. I didn’t want to disappoint the crowd and I came out with my best.
Are you satisfied with your current form?Well, I’m certainly satisfied with it if it is always like it was today. The last six-seven months on the Tour have been generally quite satisfactory. Though, of course, my performance at the Grand Slams haven’t been too well. I have to bounce back.
How was the comeback after the three-year hiatus?
Everyone has been extremely welcoming, specially in Australia. It is like being at home over there.
Would you like to make a comment on your namesake, Martina Navratilova?
I don’t think it is quite appropriate to talk about her here.
Did you like playing on the surface here at the Indoor?
Firstly, I enjoy playing indoors. In Switzerland, because of the snow, we are forced to play indoors for seven months a year, sometimes even eight. I have, kind of, grown up playing indoors. (Chuckles) And even here, don’t you think it’s a much smarter idea to play indoors, than sweat it out in the heat outside?
What prompted you to come here?
Tennis gives me the opportunity to visit countries — places which I probably wouldn’t otherwise travel to. The chance to make a lot of friends, both on and off the Tour. I am grateful for what tennis has given me …
Are you still bothered by your ankle injuries?
The ankles are fine. But sometimes, when there are too many tournaments one after the other, and I have to follow a strict regimen, I need to balance my schedule so as not to overdo it.
How did you motivate yourself to return to the Tour?
I missed it real bad when I wasn’t playing and I was never really away from it in that sense of the term. I watched a lot of tennis, I commentated. I worked hard for 5-6 weeks pre-season and thought I was ready to play again.
Are you looking forward to playing against Sania?
It would definitely be great to play against Sania, but we both have to first get there.
And what do you think about her game?
Sania is very talented. She has powerful groundstrokes. I’ve played just once against her — in Dubai. If she can put the right energy and technique together, she will go a long way. But then, she has to keep improving to keep abreast with the others.
Has the WTA circuit changed in your absence?
It certainly has. The girls now are more athletic. The Williams sisters have brought perfect technique, greater power and a lot of good sense to the game.
Which top players would you like to play against?
I’d like to play against all the top 10 players and beat them as well Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters, Sharapova and the other Russian girls. That’s what you play for, don’t you?
Your immediate target?
To qualify for the year-end Championships.
Finally, a word about Mahesh Bhupathi?
He’s the best partner I’ve ever had and I’m proud of my first mixed doubles title. It is unfortunate that we could do only one round at the French Open. I couldn’t carry on with both singles and the doubles because of the rain and bad scheduling.