Martina Hingis on being at the top of her game, off-court pursuits, and potential motherhood

Back at #1

Text: Amelia Chia

More than two decades after her first Grand Slam win, the Swiss tennis star is right where she belongs

Martina Hingis is back at World No. 1 for women's doubles, and she could not be more content. 

"Life is beautiful," says Hingis, who turned 37 two weeks ago. "I'm feeling good, I'm playing well, and the family's good."

The last time Hingis took top spot in the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) doubles rankings was in August last year, when she was still part of a duo with Sania Mirza. Her 2017 domination of the doubles game however, is a result of her deft racquet skills and partnership with Taiwanese tennis player Chan Yung-Jan. This year, they've clinched eight titles together, including her 25th Grand Slam trophy at the US Open.

Martina Hingis, chan yung-jan, tennis

Let's not forget that this is Hingis' second shot at competitive tennis. Known for her strategic thinking and impressive ball placement on court, the Swiss tennis star bagged a whole lot of "youngest ever" records in her teenage years — from being the youngest Grand Slam champion of all time (winning doubles at Wimbledon when she was 15 years and 9 months), to being the youngest Grand Slam singles winner in the 20th Century (at the Australian Open at the age of 16 years and 3 months). In 1998, at the age of 18, she won all four Grand Slam women's doubles titles, becoming only the fourth person in women's tennis history to do so. Hingis also held the singles world No. 1 ranking for a total of 209 weeks, but retired in 2007 after being hampered by a hip injury. In July 2013, she came out of retirement and in the same year, was inducted into the prestigious International Tennis Hall of Fame.

More than two decades after her first Grand Slam win, Hingis is still driven by her passion for tennis. "I am generally a positive person," she admits. "Some people think that when it rains, it rains only on them, but I think it's the opposite. At the end of the day, we are lucky to be doing what we do. There's sacrifices to be made, but if this is something you enjoy doing, then it's okay."

Martina Hingis, tennis

Ahead of the WTA Finals in Singapore, which only brings in the top eight players and teams in women's singles and doubles respectively, we had the opportunity to chat to the Swiss Miss herself. Hingis reveals more about her relationship with Yung-Jan, her favourite food in Singapore, and Netflix favourites to unwind to. And was that a hint at a potential baby?

It was Sania Mirza, then briefly Coco Vandeweghe, and now Chan Yung-Jan. What do you look for in a doubles partner, and what makes you and Yung-Jan tick?
Latisha (Yung-Jan) and I enjoy spending time on-court and making it fun, so it's not pure stress all the time. She's also a very funny person, and I like playing with someone who is optimistic. She hugs me, she's the engine — and sometimes it's the opposite. When one is down, the other comes to help and is the motor, and vice versa. When she's down, I can help and push her.

Congratulations on making the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore. How do you feel coming into this tournament?
We kind of expected it, based on the results we had, and it was definitely the goal to reach when we started playing together. After looking at our results, it was just a question of time. When we made it, it was like, "Okay, tick!"

"Life is beautiful — I'm feeling good, I'm playing well, and the family's good."

What are some things you look forward to doing when you're in Singapore?
Shopping is nice, but it is very expensive. The hotel (Marina Bay Sands) we stay in is really beautiful and is one of the best hotels we get to stay in during the tennis season. I think for all the players, when we go to Singapore, we feel like we really deserve it there, and they make it special for you. The restaurants and the infinity pool on top — what a nice finish to the year. It's a wonderful feeling to have earned it, to be there, and to be part of the WTA Finals. We're the top eight.

Martina Hingis, us open, tennis

You were also in Singapore for the WTA Finals in 2015 and 2016. Have you tried any local food? If so, which is your favourite and why?
The food in Singapore has the influence of the Malays, Indians, and Chinese — I like Asian kitchens and spicy food and try local food wherever I go. We also have a really good Swiss ambassador in Singapore as well. I went to the Swiss Club a couple of years ago and it was great — after travelling seven weeks in Asia, it was nice to be able to have Swiss food there.

What are some pre-game rituals you have? 
I try to stick to the things I can control. I don't really know — you have the same locker room, the same area that you feel comfortable, the same shower. I don't do anything in particular. Not like [Rafael] Nadal, and all the different things that he does.

Martina Hingis, chan yung-jan, tennis

What book or Netflix show are you hooked on right now?
I'm more of an iPad than books person. I just finished the 5th season of Orphan Black on Netflix. The actress [Tatiana Maslany] who plays the clone is amazing — all the different personalities she portrays is pretty cool! I also like detective shows like Hawaii Five-O, Suits, and The Mentalist.

One place in the world you'd love to go in order to unwind?
I was in the Maldives previously, and that was one of the top places that I've visited. There are still many other places that I've never been to. I'd love to see Seychelles or Argentina, for example. I haven't travelled to South Africa as there aren't enough tournaments there, and never been to the safaris in that region. I'd also like to go on a trip with the gauchos to Patagonia because I'm also a horse rider.

"I think for all the players, when we go to Singapore, we feel like we really deserve it there, and they make it special for you. It's a wonderful feeling to have earned it, to be there, and to be part of the WTA Finals. We're the top eight."

You've had your own fitness apparel line, Tonic, for five years now. How are you involved in the process?
I really like the new line this year, and we've been improving a lot over time. The designer we have has done a great job of picking the colours, and I really liked my US Open outfit. Design wise, I am involved in the fit and feel of the outfit. I also helped in the beginning to see how it feels — it has to be comfortable yet functional.

Martina Hingis, tennis

Your mother is your greatest fan, mentor, and previously your coach. Does she still play a big role or offer advice when it comes to your doubles career at the moment?
She sends me texts before my matches. Sometimes good ones, sometimes messages that make me think. They are all helpful. She's the one person I'll always listen to and respect. Every time I'm home, we still practise together and go hiking with the dog, or go on the bike, and enjoy life. I know I can talk to her about all my problems — even though I don't have many problems in my life.

When you finally retire from the game, what do you hope to focus more of your energy and time on?
I just turned 37. My biological clock is ticking, and that's definitely something on my agenda.

Catch Martina Hingis at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore. Tickets are available here.