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Hingis talks Wimbledon, coaching and playing with Federer

Martina Hingis with the Wimbledon trophy in 1997
by Helen Gilbert
Friday 11 April 2014

Former world No.1 Martina Hingis, the five-time Grand Slam singles champion, who won her first title since 2007 in Miami with her pupil Sabine Lisicki, talks to Wimbledon.com about cucumber sandwiches, coaching and her love for SW19.

What’s so special about Wimbledon?
As a tennis fan, Wimbledon is my favourite tournament to go back and visit. I love the prestige, tradition, the atmosphere when you walk into the grounds, the smell of the flowers, the perfection of the stadium; it’s jaw dropping every time. Being a past champion I get tickets to watch, and now I participate in the Legends event. It’s still pretty cool to go out there and play on the grass courts of Wimbledon. I get goose pimples and butterflies. When you don’t play for a while you get nervous about performing well, the adrenalin is going but it’s good.

Favourite court?
I always enjoyed playing on Centre but my other favourite was the old No 2 ‘Graveyard’ court, which is now Court 3. It was small and cosy; in the real time I played, I always performed well on that court.

Best Wimbledon moments?
In 1996 I was playing in the Ladies Doubles final [with Helena Sukova]. We were up 4-1 in the third having been down a break in the second [set] before turning it around but we had to finish on the Monday due to bad light. It was hard to sleep Sunday night and nerve-racking to go out there the next day but we won and the next year I won the Ladies Singles.

Maiden Centre Court memory?
The first year I played Steffi Graf was in 1995. She was a Wimbledon legend. It was nice to go on Centre Court but on the other hand I wished it was not against someone who [at that point] had won the tournament five times. I was nervous about playing her but tried to give it my best and make it a good competition.

Preferred pews?
The locker room sofas, and the seats in the players terrace restaurant, from which there’s an awesome view of the new Court Three and the grounds. I don’t mind sitting in the Royal Box either. It was nice to get the invitation to watch the women’s finals [last year], I felt very honoured to sit there.

Earliest tennis playing memory?
When I was about three we used to count how many times I could hit the ball over the net. By the time I hit it two or three hundred times we decided it was OK not to count anymore.

Growing up the generation ahead of me was Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati. I was watching their matches hoping one day I’d be out there playing them. Chris Evert had grace.

Dream doubles partner?
I really enjoyed playing Hopman Cup with Roger Federer. He was a great partner; had all the skills. I wouldn’t say no to partnering with him at Wimbledon.

How do you recover after a match?
I have a good massage, stretch, and love reflexology. I rub Nelsons Arnicare Arnica Cooling Gel into my feet and legs, which cools them down and helps with blood flow and recovery – as an athlete you’re always looking for that one extra per cent so you can demand more from your body when you’re on court.

You’re currently coaching 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki. What do you like about being a coach?
I really enjoy working with her because she’s someone who has a lot of potential, has a great serve and attitude. I’ve known her since she was ten years old, and we’re going in the same direction. Her father helps, the team chemistry is very important. I look forward every day to getting her game better. She’s got all the shots, it’s now more important to choose the right one at the right time.

What's the hardest part about being a coach/helping a player?
I feel responsible for her results and what happens on court.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Stay positive. Even if you fail try harder tomorrow.

Most treasured possession? 
Family followed by my Wimbledon trophy, which is in the Hall of Fame now.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Maybe Natalie Portman or Jennifer Garner.

What’s the most unusual tennis prize you’ve won?
A car for winning a tournament in Stuttgart, Germany. It was a Porsche Boxter. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve won. I was 16 and couldn’t even drive it.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open at the age of 16.

How would you like to be remembered?
My tennis - my strategic, chess-making game.

Strawberries and cream or cucumber sandwiches?
Strawberries and cream a million times. I like cucumber with salt but not in sandwiches. 

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