By Todd Pechter
Special to TenniShorts
If you enjoy women’s doubles, you should be looking forward to the competition at the US Open this year. And even if you’ve never found yourself particularly interested in doubles, you might want to check it out.
What makes the U.S. women’s doubles so interesting this year, you ask? Martina Hingis.
She is one of the most successful players in the recent era of tennis, having 5 Grand Slam singles titles to her credit. Hingis is now 32-years-old and had been off the tour since November 2007 in her second career retirement — her first retirement was from 2003 to 2006. In fact, having been off the tour for the prerequisite five years, Hingis was enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July.
No sooner than picking up the Hall of Fame honor, Hingis was practicing via World Team Tennis for a return to competing in doubles. Doubles in not a surprising choice for Hingis as not only is she a former world No. 1 in singles, but she was No. 1 in doubles as well. In her past career, Hingis won nine Grand Slam doubles trophies and was the fourth woman in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam in doubles, which she did in 1988. In all, she won 43 singles titles and 37 doubles trophies.
Hingis rejoined the tour in August and has been playing with Daniela Hantuchova, who comes from Slovakia where Hingis was born before immigrating as a child to Switzerland.
Thus far, the results for the Hantuchova-Hingis duo have not been great: The pair lost in the second round in three tournaments, then lost in the first round in their most recent appearance at the New Haven Open. And it does not seem as though things will get any easier for them at the US Open as they’ll have to play the top-seeded Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the first round.
Nevertheless, along with her strong career resume, Hingis brings something even more important with her into this event: Buzz.
Let’s face it, women’s doubles is usually an after-thought at most tournaments. It is often used as a warm-up act to a featured men’s or women’s singles match to follow. When it comes to TV coverage of big tournaments, neither women’s or men’s doubles tend to be featured, and if they are it’s basically as a time filler.
Hingis has huge name recognition. In playing doubles again, she will attract attention in a similar manner to when Martina Navratilova started to play doubles again after retiring from the tour for a number of years.
But along with being a tennis legend, she’s more than just a subject of the sports pages, Hingis’ name has been Page 6 – celebrity fodder for a long time. Her second career ended in retirement not only because of a left hip injury, but in the wake of testing positive for cocaine, which resulted in a two-year suspension that ended in 2009. More recently, her marriage of only two years has broken apart, with her estranged husband, French equestrian Thibault Hutin, claiming she is a “serial adulterer.”
Commonsense, previous results this summer, and a tough draw suggests Hingis won’t be spending much time on the courts here at Flushing Meadows. But she’ll get a lot of notice in the lead up to her match.
Another doubles entry that is attention-worthy in this year’s draw is everyone’s favorite sister act: Venus and Serena Williams. The Williams sisters have won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles together, but since they don’t play doubles that often they are dangerous unseeded floaters in the draw. Watching them play doubles is a delight so don’t miss out if you have the opportunity.