Martina Hingis’ perfect match

 

Mixed

 

doubles

 

It created quite a stir when the Swiss tennis champion, Martina Hingis took a break at only 22 to compete as a show jumper. She still plays tennis and she’s still winning grand slam titles  – an incredible 20 years after her first win! As it turns out, it is the horses who helped her to become one of the greatest players of our time, she tells.

 

By Camilla Alfthan 

 

 

 

The link between tennis and horses was always obvious to the Swiss tennis champion. So when Martina Hingis a few years ago teamed up with the French showjumper, Patrice Delaveau to compete in Gucci Master’s entertaining Style & Competition class, the set up reflected just that.

Dressed in her own tennis gear and aboard her Belgian warmblood, Cortina IV, Hingis was hitting balls over obstacles to her doubles partner who was disguised as the French tennis ace, Yannick Noah; complete with flying dreadlocks and dark skin. The couple did not win but their performance was a memorable one.

 

“I was born on a tennis court and I’ve been playing since I was three years old. When you see stars like Pessoa he was on a horse before he could walk. Ahlmann and all the others ride for several hours a day; it is completely different from tennis,” said Martina when we met during a break.

 

As a former number one in the tennis world, she was never particularly interested in achieving a high level in the sport.

 

“It is hard to get up at six in the morning and motivate yourself to be on the first horse at seven and I no longer have the same fighting spirit. But I admire people who do it year after year. On the tennis courts it is automatic ; I don’t have to think about what I’m doing -like when I’m counting the strides between the obstacles. I see the ball coming as soon as it leaves the opponents racket and I know what to do,” she smiles.

 

“On the tennis courts it is automatic ; I don’t have to think about what I’m doing -like when I’m counting the strides between the obstacles.”

 

 

Horses as a hobby – tennis as a job

 

While riding is a hobby tennis remains Martina’s main job. She frequently plays exhibition matches and also started to teach juniors at the French tennis academy, Patrick Mourataglou. She plays doubles – and in July 2015 she captured both the doubles title and the mixed double at Wimbledon – a sensational 19 years after her first championship!

 

Unlike tennis, her journey to the equestrian world was a long one. Both parents were tennis players in the former communist regime, Czechoslovakia and for Martina, tennis was a way out from a country which had sent her grand father to labour camp for critizising the system.

From age three she started training ten minutes a day with a sawn off racquet and at five she played up to five hours a day on the gravel courts of her hometown, Roznov. Two years later, when her parents had divorced, she moved to Switzerland with her mother where she continued to improve her game. Her talent for tennis was extraordinary –  at 12, she won her first grand slam title as the youngest player ever. After that she went on to  win the most prestigious grand slam titles of tennis.

 

Much has happened since her early beginnings. These days, she’s passing on her experiences to the younger generations while she clearly enjoys herself playing doubles.

 

“Today, tennis has become very physical. The girls are almost 180 cm and they hit hard and powerful strokes. But I still think it is possible when you’re small and have finesse, strategy and technique. Those things can take you far – just as having other interests than just tennis,” she tells.

 

In Martina’s case, it was the horses who helped her become a better player.

It all started when she was ten and on holiday in Italy where there was not much else to do than ride out on a couple of horses. For Martina it was love at first sight.

 

A horse for her first prize money

 

“It was a world that I had to myself: You’re alone with an animal and it’s all about relaxing,” tells Martina who spent her first prize money on a horse.

 

“Montana was her name and I had her for 17 years. She followed me through my career. I loved Montana.”

 

Her next big buy was a house near the Swiss town, Trübbach complete with tennis courts and three stalls. As a groom was too expensive she did everything herself when she was back home from tournaments.

 

A game of tennis in the saddle

 

A game of tennis in the saddle.

 

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