Moving Forward: Martina Hingis Talks About Her Future

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Updated: December 14, 2009

The tennis world was rocked in 2007 when it became public that Martina Hingis, one of the most distinguished players in women’s tennis, had tested positive for cocaine use at the 2007 Wimbledon Championships.

No one, though, was more shocked than the fifteen-time Grand Slam champion.

Martina HingisAs a woman who prided herself on her fitness, her form and her mental game, recreational drug use was a reprehensible idea. During the course of her career, Hingis had taken dozens of drug tests, both during and away from competition. None prior to Wimbledon ever returned positive.

“I said from the start that I was innocent,” Hingis said. “I have never used cocaine or any recreational drug. I have always been outspoken and have always told the truth, even when it was sometimes politically incorrect. If I had ever taken cocaine, I would have said so.”

She even voluntarily took a hair follicle test, which showed she had nothing in her system for the 90 days following Wimbledon. According to the International Tennis Federation, 42 nanograms per milliliter of a cocaine metabolite were found in Hingis’ system, a tiny trace amount that would have produced a negative result on a military drug test in the United States.

Unfortunately, for Hingis, the very locale where the drug test was administered has become a cocaine residue breeding ground. The UK’s Telegraph reported in 2005 that London’s Thames River was awash in cocaine, as over 150,000 lines of the recreational drug were smoked each day. Cross contamination has permeated through the water, restrooms and even bank notes.

Immediately after the ITF’s findings were publicized, Hingis launched a campaign to prove her innocence. The Swiss Miss spent $500,000 in legal costs to present her case to the ITF’s tribunal, which incidentally is composed of three members appointed and paid by the ITF, who ultimately dealt down a two-year suspension.

An appeal would have been expensive—and worthless—because the ITF requires players to identify the source of contamination, as in the recent case of Richard Gasquet’s cocaine-contaminated kissing spree. The amount of cocaine cited in Hingis’ case was so small that it was impossible to trace back to its source. Ironically, while Hingis was given the maximum penalty of two years, the rule has since been changed, as players may now receive a zero to two-year suspension for similar offenses.

Hingis’ only recourse? End her career for the second time and attempt to rebuild her life. Despite her immediate retirement, Hingis was still given a two-year ban that prevented her from even setting foot on the grounds of the four tournaments where she had experienced fifteen memorable victories.

Last month, On the Baseline’s Aaress Lawless reached Hingis for an exclusive interview about her future plans.

Do you feel as though you have a new lease on life as you start this next phase of your retirement?
“Well, I retired once before so I am quite used to it! Tennis has been and always will be a big part of my life. The difference now is that I can get to live a normal life and enjoy the type of life that I would not have been able to have if it wasn’t for tennis.”

“Because I have more flexibility now, I am able to make the most of some opportunities outside of tennis. For instance, recently I was a contestant on the BBC TV show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. I agreed to be on the show because I have always wanted to learn how to dance and how else would I get the chance to dance with a professional dancer for four hours per day, seven days per week – it was a fun experience, I only wish that I’d have stayed on the show longer!”

You have mentioned that your love for tennis remains strong. Do you have any plans for a future in the sport, perhaps by starting an academy or working as a consultant?
“Currently I play in exhibition matches and being a perfectionist, I always want to play my best so I play regularly. My mother has an academy in Switzerland, I practice a lot with her young players and give them encouragement and advice where I can. I don’t know what the future holds but I am confident that tennis will always be a big part of it.”

During your career, you were known for your sharp mental and tactical game. How would you hope to pass along this approach to the next generation of players?
“Being tactically aware is a huge advantage but in order to play a tactical game you must have mastered the basics. If you don’t have the foundation i.e. correct technique then you will never be able to play a smart tactical game. Having a smart tactical game will give you choices. This is how my mother coached me and how she continues to coach her pupils at the academy. It’s essential.”

“A coach must teach the correct technique and footwork, once this is in place then comes the strategy. It’s the same with all sports and I know this very well through my horse riding. With Dressage for instance, I know that I must get the basics right else I won’t be able to make the jump, it’s that simple and it certainly doesn’t come from luck, it comes from quality training, persistence and hard work. But then this is what all success is built from, right?!”

Persistence and hard work helped Hingis reign as the number one player in the world for four years, and although she would never want to repeat the past twenty-four months, she has remained resilient.

A flawed system may have banned her from the sport, but nothing can take away her love for the game—a love that one hopes will keep her legacy alive as one of the finest tennis tacticians of all time.

Comments

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16 Legacy Comments

  1. Facebook: Trevor Gladwin

    December 14, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Well said, Martina! Wishing you every success in every new venture! It would be great to hear you commentating alongside the other great Martina!

  2. Facebook: Marta Godinho

    December 14, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    nice interview, it’s good to hear from her

  3. Alice

    December 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Martina Hingis comes accross very clear minded about what the requirements of being a professional are.

    Even though she isn’t playing tennis now, she has managed to maintain visibility in the mainstream media with her various projects. That can only be a good thing for women’s tennis.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. JimM

    December 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks Aaress. I never believed the ITF’s bureaucrats findings. The Lab that carried out the analysis, gave wrong results in the past. The ITF said “It is assumed that this has been rectified” or words to that effect. ASSUMED!! And a player’s career and integrity is in tatters on their assumption. I’m still bitter about this.

  5. Pingback: After Two Years, Martina Hingis is a Free Woman - On the Baseline Tennis News

  6. tennis served fresh

    December 15, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Hingis, well we’ll miss her for sure. Though any drug user should be banned for good from any professional sport (this is only my opinion). I would very much like to see Hingis play a couple of exhibitions just to see how her game is.

  7. Leyland

    December 15, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Kudos to Hingis for exposing the flaws which ended her remarkable career.

  8. Steffi fan

    December 15, 2009 at 5:16 am

    i hope she will definitely comebacka and tell her power to present players.

    i really love to see her again oncourt.She and Steffi are my all-time favourites!

  9. bridgepea

    December 15, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Nice article, but when did Martina win 15 Grand Slams?

  10. Andrew Broad

    December 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Hingis won 15 Majors between 1997 and 2006: five in Women’s Singles, nine in Women’s Doubles, and one in Mixed Doubles.

    Hingis won one Grand Slam: a calendar-year Grand Slam in Women’s Doubles in 1998.

  11. bridgepea

    December 16, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Hmm, I figured as much. It is nice to see that journalists and bloggers are now counting doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam trophies on a player’s resume these days.

  12. Marine

    December 18, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I miss Martina. She was genial on court,her game was pleasure to watch. Shame she didn’t have so much power as some ball bashers but it’s also something that made her special. I also secretly hope she came back, even if only for a year to end her career on a high note as she deserved if it was not for the ******** in ITF.

  13. paul

    December 19, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Gorgeous and Innocent.

    Or

    Innocent and Gorgeous.

    I Cant decide lol.

    Martina is the best, she should come back for a few years to the WTA, shes only 29, Navratilova would give anything to be that age, but hey live and let live! be happy Martina!:X

  14. Jimmy

    December 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Martina will playing exhibition tournaments agains lindsay davenport at berlin this 17 january see my blog

  15. Marine

    December 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Her fine was a great injustice which really did hurt women’s tennis. I think someone was very eager to get rid of Martina, she was a force to be reckoned with after her return. Well, at least we can see her in exhibitions now, but still her story is saddening to me as a tennis fan.

  16. Michael

    January 26, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    This is a wonderful article and interview. A terrible injustice was done to Ms. Hingis. Some scientists have been looking into her case, to show an injustice was done. We’ll be hearing more.