Roger Federer and Martina Hingis have teamed up before, including playing at the 2001 Hopman Cup. (Mogens Johansen/AP)
It’s said that true champions can make everyone around them better. Apparently, Roger Federer can also make them consider coming out of retirement.
Former No. 1 Martina Hingis had an "informal conversation" with Federer's camp about the two Swiss stars playing as a mixed doubles pair in the 2012 London Olympics, Phil de Picciotto, the Octagon president of athletes & personalities and one of her agents, confirmed via email to SI.com after reports surfaced of the potential pairing.
Though de Picciotto said it’s “premature for Martina to think about the Olympics,” Swiss Tennis president René Stammbach told SI.com that he will be sitting down in August and “having conversations with the parties involved on that potential subject,” indicating the possible Federer-Hingis pairing is being taken seriously at the highest levels of the federation. Additionally, the Swiss Olympic Association — which said that it, too, had heard the chatter — will be meeting with Federer’s team early next week to discuss in detail the 16-time Grand Slam champion’s Olympic plans, including the “question about Martina Hingis.”
Federer will certainly need the official Swiss blessing if he hopes to form his duo. ITF Olympic eligibility criteria state that all players must have made themselves available for national team play — either Davis Cup or Fed Cup — in at least two of the Olympic cycle’s four years, including one of its final two. Though Hingis has not appeared in a Fed Cup tie since 1998, the rules are vague regarding what constitutes “making oneself available,” leaving open the possibility that with Swiss Tennis’ support, Hingis could clear that hurdle.
A chance at Olympic gold would probably need to come after a return to the WTA Tour for Hingis, who has won five Grand Slams singles titles and nine in doubles. Any player who wants to enter mixed doubles at the Olympics must already be on site for either singles or doubles — draws into which entry is determined by professional ranking, which Hingis does not currently have. While the ITF issues a few wild cards, it seems unlikely that Hingis would receive one without having spent at least a few weeks playing at the tour level.
ITF rules would also require Hingis to make herself available for anti-doping testing for at least three months prior to any Olympic participation. She could satisfy this standard through out-of-competition testing and need not necessarily return to the tour in order to do so. Indeed, Hingis is currently registered with the Swiss anti-doping authorities and makes herself available for testing, according to Michael Krattiger, head of information and prevention at Antidoping Switzerland. Krattiger declined to say whether Hingis had been tested recently, citing agency policy.
And based on her recent World TeamTennis play, the Swiss Miss, who is scheduled to play in a Pro-Am at the Mercury Insurance Open in San Diego in August, appears to be in good enough form to surpass No. 56 in the rankings and receive a direct acceptance for Olympic singles. Cynics should be careful not to write off the possibility of Hingis’ successful return. During her 2006 comeback — which was cut short roughly two years after it began when she tested positive for cocaine — Hingis quickly found her way back into the top 10, prevailing over the conventional wisdom that said she was too small to survive in the tour’s new era of power hitting. In a sign of what may be to come, the 30-year-old Hingis looked fired up and excited after defeating a rusty Serena Williams on Wednesday at the New York Sportimes’ final home match of the WTT season — a win that bodes well if Hingis decides to pursue a medal.