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Martina Hingis: A Cult Tennis Player

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In 1997 Martina Hingis had her heyday: she featured in all 4 Grand Slam finals and took home 3 of them, becoming the youngest player ever to reach the number 1 spot in the world ranking. And she was only 16. Ten years later she is sending mayday signals. It’s getting evident for the tennis community that her dream comeback is now becoming a cruel nightmare.

Back in the day the ruthless girl who owned the circuit in the late 90s managed to earn as many lovers as detractors. It is understandable that people fall for the winner the same as they tend to hate the arrogant. Success came to Hingis at such an early stage that she might have thought to be a goddess of the tennis court, which is probably true. And nothing changed that perspective maybe until the bitter defeat by Steffi Graf at the French Open in 1999.

She had already fell from the tennis throne by the end of 2002 when she was forced to retire due to injuries aggravated by desperation.

But it was Martina’s destiny to be a tennis legend, to become a cult player. And that is why she came back. And she did so not as the cocky and fussy girl the she once was but as mature and charming woman in love with the sport that once put her in the spotlight. And then everyone was able to see all her great qualities better than ever: her skill, her movement, her intelligence, her charisma. She was considered the underdog, the ultimate defender of the brain in its lost struggle against the muscle. Even the doubters turned into stone when she qualified for the year-end WTA Championship.

And the process was left almost completed at the last Wimbledon, the tournament she entered after more than a month without practice — and against medical advice — in the knowledge that the result would certainly be a disappointment. Using her own words, she went to Wimbledon because “it kind of gets tiring when all you do is watch others. That’s why I didn’t want to miss out on Wimbledon after I missed the French”.

Martina put herself in the verge of disaster against a wildcard on the opening day, being forced to save 2 match points before knocking out her teenager opponent who happened to be British: a local girl. The crowd still loved it. For her second round match, she was allocated on Court 13. It takes some effort to remember the last time she played a Grand Slam match on a court as small as that one. But she won, and those who care enough to turn up loved it.

It doesn’t really matter that she crashed out in the 3rd round against a player ranked some 50 positions below. Or that she could have made it to the semis without meeting opposition highly ranked than her. Martina had already admitted that she was not a contender. Even her more faithful fans are slowly coming to terms with the fact she will never win a Grand Slam title again. But they love her more than ever. In the dusk of her career, you could find players with more titles but none of them will fill as many pages and represent the kind of character that goes straight into the legends book. Martina Hingis has now become a cult player.

By Roberto Barrio

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  • Cedric Smith

    Martina is still a great player. The thing about her supremacy over ball-beaters like Lindsay, Mauresmo, Clijsters and The Darktown Strutter’s Duo was her willingness to play almost every tournament and to play consistently unless faced with an opponent whom she pitied like Iva Majoli.

    Now, unfortunately, it seems that Martina has two major obstacles in her path to Grand Slam victory and none of them are tennis opponents.

    Firstly Martina has failed to improve her first-serve speed and variability. Secondly she tires easily. Neither of these is beyond her reach unless she is suffering from some undisclosed illness.

    As many have said before me Martin’s physique is at least as strong as the WTA’s number one player, Jultine Henin. Therefore neither height nor strength should impede her ability to master a powerful first serve and volley velocity. While I hate to say it, it would seem that neither of her weaknesses hold any interest for her. She has had many years to improve her first serve so as to knock her opponents on their respective asses. She has done nothing, absolutely nothing to improve this vital element of today’s basic tennis game.

    The other problem that I see in Martina’s current game is the passion, the hunger, the will to win; she seems perpetually exhausted after the first set is over regardless of its outcome. This is where most of her opponents manage to trounce her. They recome resigned that the ex-world-number-one has beaten them a set and equally resolved to beat that number one into submission while Ms. Hingis seems to throw in the towel and let them win. What’s the deal with that? Is she really out of gas physically or does she simply give in to the stronger spirit if weaker talent of her oponents. I believe it is the latter. Somehow Martina must regain her desire to win. At the least Martina should recognize that the many mediocre players who beat her do not deserve such victories. Her lackadaisical attitude is making heros out of wimps or at best average players.

    Now all these things should be known to a woman of Martina’s accumen and history. If so, perhaps it is her “life” outside the tennis court which is making winning so much less important. That can happen. Most of us at some point come to the realization that love and peace are of the utmost importance. Usually this does not happen at the age of 26. Martina needs to get out of the mid-life crisis framemind she seems to have adopted and realize that she’s at least 8 years away from tennis retirement and 50 to 80 years ahead of the grave.

    She now plays more sluggishy than her namesake Martina Navrtalova.
    I truly hate to suggest that this young-adulthood lethargy is the
    result of her romantic life but such is often the case. Who among us
    is immune to the insane call of love?

    Hopefully Martina will read this and recognize at least enough truth
    in it to motivate to place her love-life and outside entanglements on the back burner while she fires up her skilly while she’s still a veritable youngster. Old age and apathy are for the Old, Martina. They should not be for you.

    You have the greatest brain of any tennis player, male or female in the history of the sport. Speed up your serves and responses at least as much as that Henin gremlin and you will win, win, win.

    Just look for a moment at the field that’s out there: First, the Williamses: home-trained by a bigoted father and insecure because of their skin color; next is Henin, an elf with the heart of a tiger but no more tennis skill than wrong-foot, mentally aberrant Mary Pierce. And then there’s chubby, bubbly Kim Clijsters. This loser for all her talent wants to settle down, protect her precious body and bounce chubby babies on her knees “before it’s too late!” For all of her sweetness she too is a nut-case. Retiring at the age of 23? Somebody’s been havin’ intercourse with her brain!

    No doubt these are at least a few of the insights you had when you
    decided to return to the singles’ circuit. But… you had forgotten
    primary requirements to win: improvement and spirit. You can no longer
    coast on your abilities; you must improve the speed of your tennis. And you can never win without heart, the desire to beat others.

    I don’t care if your mama is your coach or Pee-wee Hermin. You must improve your hitting velocity. This is even more important than spirit. It is in fact the basic requirement of women’s tennis today. Hit the shit out of your serves and your returns. They must fly by your oponents like the SST. Forget your 80mph 2nd serves; they are no longer viable. Your placement has always be superb and has made you a legend but those placements must now be accomplished with blazingly fast 100-plus velocities.

    So get some spirit and practice 100mph tennis until you drop over from
    sheer exhaustion; that’s what all your modern-day oponents are doing.
    Waste neither your or our time with anything less. If you only want to
    dandle new-borns on your knee and experience sexual fireworks I cannot
    blame you; life is short; happiness is relative. But if you think that
    tennis holds any part of the solution of happiness in your life then
    I extol you to hone your two weaknesses: the velocity of your game and
    the spirit of your desire to win.

    After you have beaten every one of today’s alleged champions into the ground then it will be time enough for you to retire and attend to peace and quiet. Today I think you are acting the part of an egotistical fool: you seem to think you can compete against today’s ball-beaters and still play the domestic role of sweetheart and possibly mama. You cannot. Wake up Martina and choose. There’s plenty of time to dote on the plebian standard of family life. If your “significant-other” is pressuring you to settle into the family life tell him to F-off. If he truly loves you he will understand. If he’s just another male control freak then you are better off without him. You have but one life to live. Make it all that you know it can be. Win Martina. You can do it. Fix your intangible spirit and improve your physical skills so that you can at least whup Henin and the negroes. Once you have done that the world of true record-breaking accomplishments is within your grasp. So long as you slide along in this limbo netherland, so long will your performance be labelled a cult performance of interest or value to only those who live in the past. Bring yourself up to date Martina and such as I will be magnetized to your aura.

  • ice

    If personal attacks are not allowed, why is this idiotic blogger himself criticising and insulting every single player out there? Pot, kettle, black

  • MH Sizzle Dizzle

    Cedric, you hit that much on Martina and the other players. Why don’t you become a tennis coach for pro players? Or better yet, try becoming a pro tennis player and win, win, win under all your petty advices. I’d be nice if you had a match with Martina Hingis herself. You’d be lucky to even score a single point, let alone a game, in the match.

  • MH Sizzle Dizzle

    Cedric, you hit that much on Martina and the other players. Why don’t you become a tennis coach for pro players? Or better yet, try becoming a pro tennis player and win, win, win under all your petty advices. I’d be nice if you had a match with Martina Hingis herself. You’d be lucky to even score a single point, let alone a game, in the match.