Martina Hingis: The 16-year-old Wimbledon winner who could’ve been the best of all-time

Hingis

Ask yourself what you were doing when you were 16 years old? Most would still be in school, living at home and eagerly anticipating the holiday season. Martina Hingis, meanwhile, was busy winning Grand Slams.

The Swiss star became the undisputed world number one at this very age in 1997, reaching all four major finals that year and winning three of them.

This made her the youngest Slam winner in Open Era history, as well as the youngest top-ranked player ever.

By 22, Hingis had 40 singles wins to her name, 36 doubles titles and was the highest-paid female athlete in the world. On the tennis circuit, the five-time major champion had won every WTA singles event bar the French Open.

Hingis

But, just as it seemed the teenage sensation was on track to reach the same heights as legends of the game, injuries blighted her progress. Ligament problems in both ankles rendered her unable to compete for three years and despite a miraculous return in 2006, a further hip injury and positive drug test effectively ruled her singles career over.

With Wimbledon under a fortnight away, it’s worth a look back on the remarkable career of the Czechoslovakian born player –– who enjoyed Ladies’ Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles success at the All England Club.

A teenager winning Wimbledon should come as a surprise. Boris Becker was unseeded when he won the tournament in 1985. Similarly, though Maria Sharapova was seeded 13th when she won in 2004, her triumph over Serena Williams was a historic upset at the time.

Yet, Hingis’ victory was anything but unexpected. In truth, it was actually predicted. The Swiss star was already number one in the world by this point and had reached the final of both the Australian Open and Roland-Garros that same season.

At this stage, it seemed the teenager was unstoppable. US Open glory followed this Wimbledon win, as did a second consecutive Australian Open at the start of 1998.

However, despite a third win in Melbourne the following year, Hingis failed to win another Slam after the turn of the millennium. Ankle injuries severely affected the Swiss star’s movement and athleticism on court, for which she’d become synonymous in her teenage days.

Having spent four years away from tennis between 2002 and 2006, Hingis returned to the game and looked to have rediscovered her former touch. Six more singles titles came in quick succession, leading Laureus to honour her with their Comeback of the Year award.

This resurgence was short-lived though, as further injury troubles and a positive drug test in 2007 saw her suspended from the sport for two years.

At this point, Hingis’ career was seemingly over and with the likes of the Williams sisters transcending the women’s game, fans had new superstars to admire.

Extraordinarily, Hingis did indeed return almost a decade later but focused specifically on doubles. In 2015, she won the Wimbledon Doubles title to claim her first major since 2002. The very next day, she added a Mixed Doubles crown to her trophy cabinet.

In 2017, while ranked number one in the doubles rankings, Hingis retired for the third time. In total, she won 25 Grand Slam titles, the Tour Finals twice and a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

Stats like this certainly put her up there with the all-time legends of the sport. But, given her early success, her finesse on court and her ability to compete at the top of the game even after 10 years away from competitive action, there is no telling how many majors she may have won had she stayed fit.

Hingis will forever be remembered in tennis history, yet, despite leaving a memorable legacy, fans must still wonder what might have been.

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