Martina Hingis’ perfect match


“I cleaned the stalls, I brushed the horses and then I went riding. For me it was like dessert. I trained six hours a day and then I went riding in the mountains and in the nature. It took the stress away.


“With horses, you learn something new all the time because they are different and riding makes you more flexible. You must be alert and see things before the horse does. And it helps you read the game in tennis.” 


In tennis riding improved my balance. It’s about communication and it’s not something you can put aside like a tennis racket. It’s a daily discipline and you just can’t tell  your horse ‘today I’m not up to it’. You have to go on if you really want it. It’s like that with everything if you want to improve. But with horses, you learn something new all the time because they are different and riding makes you more flexible. You must be alert and see things before the horse does. And it helps you in tennis, because you learn how to read the game.”


A risky sport


In tennis, Martina was trained by her mother. But they never did a real match-up as her mum was busy giving lessons to other kids. When it was Martina’s turn she was always tired.


“I think I could have beaten her when I was thirteen or fourteen, “ smiles Martina who’s close relationship with her mother was often criticized in the media.  In reality, it was Martina’s mother who allowed her to buy a horse even if it presented great risks, she tells.


“I fell off all the time but that is a part of riding. On top of that, my first horse was only three when I bought her so it was a real rodeo. Once, when things went wrong, I only discovered it the next morning,“ she laughs.

Her worst fall happened just five weeks before the French Open tournament where she tore a ligament in her ankle.

“I had just been ranked as the world’s number one and I didn’t think I could play. It was not the perfect timing. Fortunately, I was young enough to get well quickly and fight back. I won the doubles in French Open and then the singles at Wimbledon,” tells Martina who retired at 22 after having won five grand slam singles titles.

When she returned three years later, she made it all the way to a sixth place on the world ranking list. Then came the drama, when a routine check revealed tiny traces of cocaine in her blood. Sentenced with a two year quarantine Martina decided to quit for good and return to her horses.

Looking back it was the horses that kept her spirits up. At one point she had as many as four to ride everyday.


A reason to wake up in the mornings


“The horses gave me a reason to wake up in the mornings. I was with them everyday and even drove them around to competitions during the three years when I completely stopped playing tennis. As a woman, you have a family and a man but you also need a passion in life to complete yourself.

Basically, it was about getting a break from tennis because we travel so intensively, “ she tells.


For the past few years she hasn’t had the time to compete that much. But it doesn’t stop her from attending the shows and keeping up with the other riders. Her favourites include her Swiss compatriots and the Swede, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson; “Casall was not easy in the beginning but he never gave up!”.

For her own part she competes to relax. That means that she’ll stick to a medium level and obstacles that are around 135 cm.


“It’s not a cheap sport, either,” she adds. “The cost of a five star horse is astronomical. I would never have done it – you have to be a millionaire to be in this sport. Money is the first thing you need to invest in a horse unless you are unbelievably skilled and have a sponsor. Thanks to tennis I have earned enough to live my passion.“





* Was born in 1980 in Kosice, Slovakia and named after the Czech tennis star, Martina Navratilova.

* Aged 7 she moved to Switzerland with her divorced mother.

* At 2 she won French Open and Wimbledon as the youngest junior ever.

* When she was 14 she spent her first prize money on a horse.

* She was the youngest player on the WTA tour, and in 1997, at 16, she won the Australian Open as the youngest player in the 20th century. The following year, she captured the singles title at Wimbledon.

* During altogether 209 weeks she was ranked as the world’s number 1.

*When she retired at just 22 she had already won five grand slam titles and earned around 20 million dollars in prize money.

* Today she plays the Legends Tour as well as doubles while she show jumps during weekends.

* Her sponsors include the Canadian brand, Tonic Apparel, which manufactures her  own clothing line.




Below Martina Hingis is coached by the show jumping legend, Nelson Pessoa.



Early mixed doubles magic with Leander Paes :









Previous page