Tennis legend Martina Hingis has turned the clock back to compete once more in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, eight years after her last appearance in the Emirates.
The now 34-year old, who spent an incredible 209 weeks as the world number one and won five Grand Slam singles titles, was the very first winner of the WTA event in Dubai, beating Nathalie Tauziat in the 2001 final. She went on to reach a further two quarter-finals before eventually retiring from the game.
But always the keenest of competitors, she decided to return to compete in doubles and has carried on as before, adding more trophies to her already crowded shelves and returning once more to the world’s top 10.
It is no surprise that she is enjoying so much success again, as she was also a world number one doubles player, earning no less than nine Grand Slam titles as well as two mixed doubles crowns. This year she has already partnered Sabine Lisicki to the Brisbane title, going through the entire week without the loss of a set and following up their success in lifting the Miami title in 2014 when Martina claimed her first title in seven years.
But it is with her other favoured partner, Flavia Pennetta, that she will compete in Dubai. The pair won two titles together last season, in Wuhan and then in Moscow. Incredibly, the pair also reached the final of the US Open before losing in three tight sets to Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who are seeded number two in Dubai this week.
Martina is arguably enjoying life on the WTA Tour even more now than before. She retired twice from singles, and when she came back for her second singles career she found she was under far less pressure. The same applies now to her doubles career. Every win is a bonus and something to savour.
“Before, I always played for somebody – my mum, she was my coach and I always wanted to do well for her and success came and it was a great combination,” she said. “The second time around I felt okay, I’m doing it for myself and see how far it’s going to get me. It was different.”
Seeded number one is the pairing of Su-Wei Hsieh and the ever popular Sania Mirza, with Shuai Peng and another WTA Tour veteran, 39-year old Kveta Peschke, seeded four. All four teams receive a first round bye.
“It is a measure of her longevity and passion for the game that Martina Hingis is able to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships a remarkable 15 years since she first played here and won the inaugural WTA Tour event,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “A champion never forgets how to compete and how to win, and Martina continues to thrill her countless fans around the world.”
A star-studded doubles draw adds to what is already an outstanding festival of tennis that features almost every top singles player in the world, with seven of the top 10 doubles players taking part.
“The doubles event is always exciting to watch, and this year with the inclusion of one of the greatest ever to have played the game tennis fans in Dubai have even more exciting competition to watch,” said tournament directoir Salah Tahlak. “If Martina Hingis can join Flavia Pennetta to claim the title 15 years after she won here for the first time it will be an unprecedented achievement, but no surprise. We look forward very much to seeing how well she can do.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event takes place between 15th and 21st February and in singles features defending champion Venus Williams, Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova, French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep, former Dubai winners Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, Brisbane runner-up Ana Ivanovic, Australian Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova and recent Sydney semi-finalist Angelique Kerber.
Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament which stars world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.