Martina Hingis is set to make a return to the WTA Tour, playing doubles with Daniela Hantuchova at the Southern California Open in Carlsbad. It will be her second return after a drug ban saw her retire late in 2007.
The decision was announced days after being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with the 14 times grand slam champion (5 in singles, 9 in doubles including Career Grand Slam) heading the class of 2013.
Despite her retirement, she has remained active in tennis the past few years playing invitationals at the slams. Hingis and Lindsay Davenport have won the Wimbledon Ladies Invitation Doubles for three years running now as well as picking up the Womens Legends Doubles title at Roland Garros in 2011.
She has also excelled in World Team Tennis, having the highest win percentage of all women’s singles participants in the past two years – a position she also holds this year as part of the record breaking Washington Kastles.
“I feel in good shape at the moment after playing World Team Tennis. My competitive spirit is still very much alive and I love being out on court. The tournament at Onmi La Costa Resort & Spa is the perfect place for me to start.” said Hingis recently. The latter gives hope to the fact that this is more than a one-off but she is yet to commit to any more tournaments but it is possible that success could see her play the US Open Series and decide from there.
Whatever it is, her choice of partner is a solid one. Hantuchova has won 5 doubles titles on the WTA Tour and one of a rare few to have a Career Grand Slam in Mixed Doubles as well as making 3 grand slam finals in Ladies Doubles. The pair played a number of tournaments in 2007 including the US Open where they made the third round.
The question on everyones lips will be – Can she make a successful return on the singles circuit? The first time round she won tournaments in Kolkata and Rome and made quarter finals in Melbourne and Paris to finish in the year end top 10 in 2006 but was often found wanting against the elite in Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. However, seven years on, the physical demands of the game continue to increase and the possibility that she is unable to keep up is worth taking into account.
There is no doubt that she is still young enough to compete on the tour given the success of thirtysomethings like Li Na, Nadia Petrova and of course Serena Williams amongst the 13 inside the top 100 as it stands. Meanwhile, the story of Kimiko Date Krumm will also give hope should the former No.1 return to singles play at the age of 32.
Given the continuous comparisons to Agnieszka Radwanska – ones that she doesn’t necessarily agree with (“I’d like to see her win a Grand Slam before she’s completely compared to me.”) – the style of play that isn’t totally reliant on power can still see you be competitive and there is no doubt of her shotmaking abilities.
Whether it’s just a quick return or a full time comeback, it’s great to see one of the greats of the WTA make a return to the tour.