Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MARTINA HINGIS MAY PARTNER LINDSAY DAVENPORT IN WTA DOUBLES RETURN

(editor's note. This is a column that appeared on www.tennisnow.com, which is edited by Richard Pagliaro. It is reprinted here with his permission. I have chosen to publish it because, next to Monica Seles, Hingis has been my favorite tennis player. She has not played on the women's tour for two years because of  a suspension due to the alleged use of cocaine during Wimbledon in 2007. She said at that time that she would not return to professional tennis when the ban expired. Tennis Now has asked me to cover her World Team Tennis appearance on July 21 at Villanova University. I am now working on getting press credentials for this event.)

Martina Hingis has caught the tennis Buzz again.

By Richard Pagliaro
 
Hingis will play a full season of World TeamTennis for the New York Buzz next month and is considering a return to the WTA Tour as a doubles specialist. Hingis may follow up her WTT return with a world-class doubles partnership pairing her with fellow former World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport.

While the 29-year-old Hingis ruled out a return as a singles player, she said she is in discussions with Davenport about potentially partnering in doubles, in what would be a pairing of Grand Slam champions.
"I've had some talks — not for the singles — I'm not considering a comeback (in singles), I have no further plans, but talk about doubles, yeah, with Lindsay (Davenport) [on left] I've had some conversations," Hingis [on right] told the media in a conference call today to promote her upcoming appearance for the New York Buzz.

"We played together once and we won, so we're undefeated," Hingis added with a laugh.The five-time Grand Slam singles champion will play exhibition events in Liverpool and Manchester this week in preparation for the Wimbledon Ladies Legends doubles exhibition next week in which she will play with former partner Anna Kournikova, reforming their "Spice Girls" partnership. Hingis said she plans to discuss the prospect of playing WTA events with Davenport during Wimbledon next week.

"I'll see it a Wimbledon, where we take it from there," said Hingis. "We're gonna play the Legends. We've been talking and we'll see how we do and how it goes."

It is a pairing that would make sense given the fact Hingis and Davenport are two of only six women in Open Era history to hold the World No. 1 singles and doubles ranking simultaneously. Davenport, who still owns one of the most potent serves in women's tennis, provides the power and strong serve Hingis lacks, while Hingis' court sense, flair for finesse and ability to create angles that look like they come straight off the pages of a Dr. Seuss drawing of geometry was unmatched in her prime.

Hingis won nine Grand Slam doubles titles as well as the 2006 Australian Open Mixed Doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi. In 1998, she became the fourth woman in tennis history to sweep all four Grand Slam doubles championships in a calendar year.
Davenport, who serves as a television analyst for Tennis Channel, announced she will play doubles with Liezel Huber in San Diego next month. Hingis said she's heard Daveneport is also planning to play mixed doubles in majors.

Three months shy of her 30th birthday and nearly three years removed from her last WTA Tour singles match, Hingis said she is returning to WTT competition because she has a passion to play.

"I love the game. I have great memories when I played WTT in 2005 and 2006 and we ended up winning for the Sportimes," said Hingis, who surrendered only one set all season and earned WTT Most Valuable Player in leading the New York Sportimes to the 2005 WTT title. "It was great fun and I love the team spirit and I love to have the challenge."

Hall of Famer and WTT founder Billie Jean King told the AP last week Hingis is "testing the waters" for a return to the WTA Tour after serving a two-year ban from the pro circuit following a positive test for cocaine at the 2007 Wimbledon.

Hingis said today playing World TeamTennis next month will give her a good barometer of how her current level of play matches up to the world's best players.

"I'm already playing some exhibitions in England and playing World Team Tennis it always gives you an idea where you stand," said Hingis, who has already faced Michaella Krajicek in exhibition play.

Hingis is scheduled to face several familiar faces — World No. 1 Serena Williams, World No. 2 Venus Williams and US Open champion Kim Clijsters — in WTT play and said she's particularly excited about renewing her rivalry vs. the Williams sisters.

"I think we always brought out the best tennis in each other and kept us pushing," Hingis said. "And I have great memories (of facing them). They brought the power game and I tried to deal with it with finesse. I think it was a great contrast every time we played each other...They're going to be playing Wimbledon, of course. For me, since I haven't been playing in the last three years it's gonna be quite interesting to see. We've played a lot of matches in the past. I'm sure it's gonna be different this time. I'll definitely have to come out with really good tennis if I want to do something."

Hingis is certainly young enough to launch a comeback and may be inspired by the successful returns of former World No. 1 players Clijsters and Justine Henin in recent months.

It would not be the first time Hingis used World TeamTennis as a test run for a return. She earned WTT Player Of The Year Honors in 2005 in leading the New York Sportimes to the WTT championship before returning to the WTA Tour in 2006. During the 2005 WTT season Hingis flatly ruled out a return to WTA Tour play, only to change her mind and launch a full-fledged comeback. She said today, she is older now and has no plans to play singles, but she said the same thing five years ago and did come back.

"At this point I am not considering a (singles) comeback and like I said I love to play tennis," Hingis said. "It was definitely a different time (Then) and when I decided to come back I'm gonna turn 30 soon. World TeamTennis is a great experience and I'm very much looking forward to playing."

In WTT play, Hingis showed signs of the guile, touch and court sense that made her the top player in the world. Those elements can make her a successful doubles player. Hingis' shallow serve — by far the biggest weakness in her game — was exposed at times during near two-year return to the WTA Tour, but her serve is not nearly as big a liability in doubles where more often than not she can gauge where the return is coming. Additionally, if Hingis did partner with Davenport it would enable her to use her superb net skills in doubles.

It could be the latest chapter in a career that has seen Hingis capture five Grand Slam singles titles and eight major doubles titles. Hingis won 43 singles and 37 doubles championships in a career that began 16 years ago.






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