Martina Hingis is back on tour at age 34 and has made a remarkable comeback in doubles, winning her fifth major title of the season at the 2015 U.S. Open.
NEW YORK – As it turns out, there was a player who won four majors in 2015. In fact, she won five.
While World No. 1 Serena Williams had her quest for a fourth Grand Slam title of the season halted by Italy’s Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open women’s semifinals on Friday, Switzerland’s Martina Hingis notched her fifth major title of the year, winning the U.S. Open women’s double title with partner Sania Mirza.
Hingis and Mirza defeated Australia’s Casey Dellacqua and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova 6–3, 6–3 on Sunday, just two days after Hingis won the mixed doubles title with partner Leander Paes in a 6–4, 3–6, 10–7 victory over American duo Sam Querrey and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. With the win Hingis and Paes became the first team since 1969 to in three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in the same year.
"I just love to play tennis and I am fortunate to have Leander as my partner," Hingis said after the match. “It's incredible. I know he has my back all day long. If I don't come up with a return but 10 double faults, he's still there with me.”
The duo had previously won the 2015 Australian Open and Wimbledon together, while Hingis also won the 2015 Wimbledon women’s doubles title with partner Sania Mirza of India, defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 5–7, 7–6(4), 7–5 in a thrilling final.
“Yes it’s been a while, 17 years [since her last U.S. Open doubles title]. But it feels like the same all over again,” she said. “I don’t look at it like it’s been 17 years, I look at it like yes I am still here and still playing well.”
Hingis and Mirza, a hard-hitting baseliner, first teamed up in March for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. They won that tournament, and then went on to win the Miami Open and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. At Wimbledon, the No. 1 ranked pair were down 5–2 in the third set before storming back for the victory. For Mirza, the win was her first Grand Slam women’s doubles crown; for Hingis, it was her third at Wimbledon, but her first since 1998.
“We hit it off immediately and we’ve become more like friends as the year has gone on,” said Mirza. “Our game complements each other. We’re happy to be here in this moment with this second Slam, but it’s kind of surreal. We really didn’t think back in March that it would happen so soon.”
Hingis is most known for her reign as the World No. 1 in women’s singles in the mid 1990s. She won her first doubles Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 1996 at age 15 with then partner Helena Suková. In 1997 at age 16, she became the youngest Grand Slam singles champion ever by winning the Australian Open in a 6–2, 6–2 victory over Mary Pearce and she would go on to win five Grand Slam singles titles in her career and become the youngest top-ranked player in history. In 1998, with two different partners, she won the calendar Grand Slam in women’s doubles.
Entering the 2015 season, Hingis had won nine majors in women’s doubles and two in mixed doubles. But Hingis’s ride a doubles queen has not been without tabloid controversy. After winning the women’s Wimbledon title with Jana Novotna in 1998, Hingis parted with the then 30-year-old Czech saying she was too old and too slow. Hingis then teamed with tennis bombshell Anna Kournikova, calling their pairing the “Spice Girls” of tennis. The duo won the Australian Open titles in 1999 and 2002. However, after news leaked of a fight between the pair during an exhibition match in Chile, the two parted ways after their Aussie win.
Recurring ankle injuries and back pain caused Hingis to retire in 2003. She made an uninspired return in 2006 but was suspended a year later after testing positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.
Now back on tour at the top of her game in doubles Hingis, 34, is once again riding the wave at No. 1.
“It feels good. But I always felt like I could get back to this level,” she said. “I mean, you always feel like you have it in the back of your head. I had one comeback when in singles now this is another one in doubles. I always believed in it. Without that you can't come out here and play and compete at this level.”
As for the future, Hingis said she has asked both world No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 5 Stan Wawrinka if they want to team up for Switzerland in mixed doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. There are no plans etched in stone just yet, but Hingis said she would the experience would be the icing on the comeback cake.
"This has been a great ride," Hingis said. “To then play in Rio would be great for me, for the guys and for Switzerland.”