The Swiss tennis star, Martina Hingis, says it would take a “medical miracle” to get her back on the grand prix circuit.
In February, a long-term foot injury forced the former world number one to announce her probable retirement, at the age of only 22.
Since then speculation has been rife about a possible comeback, but Hingis insists she is only concentrating on life after tennis.
swissinfo caught up with Hingis at a tennis club near Geneva, where she was honouring an engagement with one of her sponsors.
swissinfo: Can you swear that you will never return to the WTA circuit?
Martina Hingis: You can never say “never” in life. It was a difficult decision to retire. And short of a medical miracle…
In any case, the longer I’m away from the courts, the harder it will be to get back among the top players. Tennis is constantly changing. That’s just the way life is. I’m not bitter because I’ve had a lot of great chances throughout my career.
But it’s quite hard nowadays when I’m at the championships at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.
At times like those I wish I could get back on court and play at the level I was at, and feel that special atmosphere again. But that’s not possible. So I do other things instead.
swissinfo: Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, who you are still in contact with, were also considered lost to the tennis world a few years ago. But they’re back on court. Don’t they tell you to take some time off but come back to tennis later on?
M.H.: It wasn’t my decision to stop playing, it was my body’s! These last few years have been very difficult with all the operations I had to have. I had to stop or I would not have been able to walk again, let alone play sport. But if I hadn’t been injured, I would definitely still be playing.
Looking back, I realise I got a lot out of tennis. From now on I have to learn to live differently. I’m studying, I devote a lot of time to my passion for horse riding and I’m often travelling around fulfilling my obligations to my sponsors.
And I’m also trying to give back some of what I’ve been lucky enough to have by involving myself in various causes.
swissinfo: Do you miss competing?
M.H.: For me every day is a competition. Particularly when it comes to my studies. In fact I think above all it’s a state of mind: to be willing to do things to the best of your ability. It’s an attitude for life, so I want to hold on to this attitude in my new life.
swissinfo: Your career took off when you won your first tournament at Filderstadt. It seems ironic that it was there, in 2001, that you had your first serious injury, and also where you played your last match in October 2002.
M.H.: I hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s true. Even if I played my first professional match at Zurich, it was at Filderstadt that I won my first title.
It shows, if proof is needed, how close victory can be to defeat in sport.
swissinfo: What are your best and worst memories?
M.H.: I don’t have a best or worst memory. The first tournaments, the Grand Slams, winning and losing, all these moments were learning experiences.
At the top level, there’s a fine line between exhilaration and success, and bitterness and defeat. But it was never a question of life and death and there were always other opportunities.
swissinfo: You’ve sealed your place in history by being the first Swiss player to win a Grand Slam event. How do you feel about Roger Federer’s victory at this year’s Wimbledon?
M.H.: I’m pleased I’ve been able to pave the way. It’s fantastic for him. I know how one feels at those moments. When you’ve got there, you can say: “ I’ve made it!” I wish him the best of luck in his quest for world number one.
It’s good for Switzerland to have exceptional athletes, some role models.
swissinfo: You came to Switzerland when you were eight. Today you divide your time between here and Florida, where you have a house. Where is home for you?
M.H.: I just own a property in Florida. In the past, it was ideal for training. Now I go there when I want to take a holiday or when I have to be in the United States.
swissinfo: You spent almost all of your youth with your mother at your side as your trainer. If you ever have children, will you teach them tennis?
M.H.: I always got on well with my mother and still do. We’re good friends. Family must always come first for me: it’s the most important thing. If it’s possible to combine the two, that’s all the better.
I will make my children part of my involvement in the sport, whatever it will be, because it provides good life lessons. Then it will be up to them whether they want to pursue the sport.
swissinfo: Finally, when you go on a tennis court nowadays, do you still take care not to step on the lines?
M.H.: No of course not. Those old superstitions have no place in my new life!
swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froidevaux (translation : Joanne Shields)
Martina Hingis has won 40 tournaments – including five Grand Slams (Australia: 1997, ‘98, ‘99; US Open: ‘97 and Wimbledon: ‘97) and two Masters.
St Gallen-born Hingis was the youngest player to win a Grand Slam tournament, aged 16 and six months.
Her total competition winnings total $18.3 million (SFr24.6 million) (publicity revenues not included).