Martina Hingis will not expand her comeback to the WTA beyond a proposed five initial doubles tournaments, the former great said on Wednesday ahead of her return at the Southern California Open.
Hingis retired for the second time in her career in 2007 after testing positive for traces of cocaine and not having the heart to do more than emphatically deny the charge. The five-time grand slam champion, now 32, quit for first time in 2002 due to foot and ankle injuries.
She will now return to the doubles court with Daniela Hantuchova at one of her favourite events, with the new pair starting against German Julia Goerges and Darija Jurak of Croatia.
“I don’t have any expectations,” said Hingis, who sharpened the game with which she dominated a decade and a half ago as a teenager on the WTA by playing summer Team Tennis. “But I would not have put myself in this position if I didn’t think I could compete.”
“My form is good enough for Team Tennis (which concluded last weekend). We’ll see if it’s still good enough for WTA doubles.”
Hingis, who lost her last WTA match in September 2007 against China’s Peng Shuai, said that her desire to play remains strong. She has kept herself in the game through coaching, spending a few months this spring with Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, with the pair splitting amicably at the French Open over philosophical differences.
Only a month ago, Hingis and the now-pregnant Lindsay Davenport won the Wimbledon legends doubles title.
Hingis will not be the oldest on the courts during her mini-comeback.
The Swiss, coached by her mother, got a head start at age 14 on the WTA. “There are a few doubles players older than me. But back in the day more top singles girls played doubles, maybe six of eight out of the top ten. Now there may be three, it’s much more open in doubles right now.”
The Swiss added, “In the back of my mind I was always thinking of playing doubles again. But not singles, that’s a different world. I’d have to put so much more effort into it.”
“Playing is the easy part. It’s the grind behind the scenes that’s so tough. And the older you get, the harder it is. I don’t want to come back and play one or two matches in singles and lose in the third round, that’s not me.”
“For three years (after my second retirement) I didn’t pick up a racquet. But coaching brought me back into my world. This is where I feel most comfortable. This is what I know best. I enjoy playing tennis.”
Hingis also has a hand in the business side of the California tournament, with her new clothing line the official sponsor for the week. “It’s nice to see my name on the shirts,” she added.
“This seems the perfect time to try and come back. I’ve always loved it here and we’ll see how it all goes. If I keep playing well I would want to continue.”