Six-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis talks exclusively to Liverpooltennis.co.uk as she looks forward to playing at the Tradition-ICAP Liverpool International Tennis Tournament later this month.
Liverpooltennis.co.uk: First of all Martina, we are all so pleased that you will play at Liverpool this summer, we haven't heard from you for a while, what have you been doing since announcing your retirement? Martina: I have been enjoying some quite time. I like to keep in pretty good shape so I still go out there and hit the ball around. Of course, I continue to spend a lot of time with my horses. Being retired has given me a little extra time with them which has been good.
Is there a reason why you picked Liverpool to come out of retirement and face the public eye again? I still get a lot of enjoyment from playing tennis and I think I have a lot to give back to the game. Liverpool is a city I have not yet been to but I have heard good things about it. The players speak highly of the event so I'm looking forward to coming for the first time.
Justin Henin has just announced her retirement at the age of 25. What do you think the reason is that female players in this generation tend to retire so early? Tennis takes a lot out of you. People think it is a very glamorous lifestyle, which in some ways it is, it can also be tiring traveling from city to city around the world for most of the year. Girls tend to start their careers very young so by the time you have reached your mid-20's, you could have been on the tour for 10 years already.
Henin had an amazing career and won seven Grand Slams by the age of 25. You won an incredible six Grand Slams by 17, how did that make you feel and was there ever a stage when you felt that this was the last one or did you feel it could go on for years to come? I had a great start to my career. I think when you are young you play with no fear and that is how I approached every match. I always went out on court believing that I could win, but there is no doubt that women's tennis has gotten stronger over the years.
Charlotte Lotti Dodd, from Merseyside, was the youngest Wimbledon winner at the age of 15 back in 1886, that record stood until your victory in 1996. Do you think your record will stand for 100 years? I hope so! 100 years is a long time, though, so I am sure there will be a few youngsters coming through to take my record!
Local girl Chloe Murphy, just turned 15, has been given a Wild Card entry to the WTA-players event. What advise would you give her as she tries to break into the WAT rankings? Always conitnue to enjoy the game. Don't be afraid of losing and always give it your best shot. Of course you have to be ready to work hard and be disciplined too.
There is talk about a women's Legends series. Is that something you would be interested in becoming a part of? Maybe one day I will do that but they would have to get rid of the age restriction!, I'm still a little young to consider it!
What are you looking most forward to in Liverpool? Traveling to new cities is always something I enjoy. I have not yet been to the North of England and I am looking forward to finding out if people really are football crazy. I've heard it's the culture capital for the year too so it will be good to see some of the events around that too.
You have enjoyed a great career, what do you think has been the key to your success? Hard work, a good team around me and enjoyment for the game.
What do you think your future holds? Will you continue to play tournaments such as Liverpool or do you see yourself doing something completely different? I will definitely want to stay in good shape so I can see myself playing some more exhibition events. I'll definitely keep up horse riding too.
How did you first get involved in tennis? My Mum has her own academy and she was the one to first put a racket in my hand.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses in your game? Physically I definitely needed to work hard to compete so that was always an important area for me to train on. I have a pretty good read of the game and that helps me anticipate where the ball will go. I would like to have had a stronger serve so I could win more free points but overall I think that being able to hit any shot from anywhere was a big weapon for me.
What are the good and bad points of being a professional tennis player? The good things are that you get to see a lot of different places around the world. Of course, if you are successful you can also earn a good living! You also get to do something you love every day and bring enjoyment to other people. The negative side is that it can become quite tiring with all the travel and you have to be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices to get to the top. You don't really have a normal teenage life, you spend those years on tour so you have to grow up very quickly.
How do you like to unwind when you are away from the tennis court? I like to go to the movies or have dinner with friends. Of course, I have my horse riding too.
What do you think you would have done if you hadn't become a tennis player? A champion horse rider for sure!
You spent 209 weeks as World No.1, only bettered by Stefi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, how did that feel? To have had the success I have in tennis has been a great thing. These are memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The Tradition-ICAP Liverpool International Tennis Tournament runs from June 10-15th 2008 and features ATP and WTA players events as well as the Legends. Tickets are on sale now on this web site or you can book tickets either online at Ticketmaster or call 0870 1690 107.