What's her story?
She was named after Martina Navratilova by her mother Melanie Molitor who had already decided that her daughter would be a tennis player. Martina was trained methodically in the direction of becoming a WTA top player.
She was considered a "wunder kind" and won many junior titles even when she was a couple of years younger than the age group she played in. She even won the girl's singles French Open title when she was 12 and her opponents were 18! Next year – at 13 – she won the French Open and Wimbledon and became World nr.1 junior player.
Martina Hingis holds many »youngest« records:
- the youngest player to win a match in a Grand Slam – aged 14
- the youngest Grand Slam winner – partnered with Helena Sukova and won Wimbledon doubles title – aged 15
- youngest Grand Slam winner in 20th century
– won Australian Open – aged 16
- youngest player to attain nr. 1 ranking – aged 16
- youngest Wimbledon champion – aged 16
Many are not aware of her phenomenal doubles skills. Martina won the doubles Grand Slam in 1998 and became only the third woman to hold nr. 1 ranking in singles and doubles at the same time.
She announced her retirement from the game in 2003 and as the cause cited »severe ankle problems.«
So what can we learn from Martina Hingis:
She became »the youngest« in so many areas and broke many myths and beliefs we might have. We believe that it takes years of experience and great power to make it in the big game. Martina Hingis changed all that. She showed that with great intelligence, anticipation and superb tennis skills you can do wonders, especially in the women's tennis.
A player does not have to conform to standards and usual time lines to become good. If he/she has the right talent and excellent circumstances, anything can happen. By believing that it takes years to be really good in tennis you don't even try to be good. Or you believe that you have no chance against older players. How do you think that affects your approach when you begin that match? Or when you come to 4:4 and then remember: «Oh, yeah, he is two years older, there is no way I'm winning this…«
Another brilliant thing about Martina is her ability to outsmart the opponent. She has fantastic overview of the court, her opponent’s position and she seems to anticipate where her opponents will usually run.
She is a master tennis chess player. She doesn’t hit one shot with only one purpose – to hit a powerful ball. She hits many shots and is preparing her trap, her maze of deception in which the other players soon find themselves. She surprises them with many unexpected directions, types of shots and different tactics.
Martina used a drop shot from very difficult defensive situations many times. She surprised her opponent who was late for the ball and ended up hitting the ball well below the net. So she couldn’t hit it for the winner and Martina was able to get to the next ball. With her fantastic shot abilities and usual weaknesses on the volley by the most women on the tour, Martina often won that point.
But it's not only that point that counts. Her opponent seemed in command of the point and lost it anyway. That destroys one's confidence, especially with women, who are usually more emotionally fragile.
What Martina Hingis does is that she has a different purpose in her mind. Her purpose is not only in the next shot nor is it to hit the ball hard no matter what. Her purpose is to maneuver and outsmart the opponent and look for highly probable opportunities when a hard shot is a good risk to take.
And because of this underlying purpose her decisions are so creative. She can't think so fast consciously, no one can. But when you have a different purpose deep inside your mind, decisions that come up in split seconds during the play will reflect that.
What can you learn – change your purpose, look to outsmart and outmaneuver your opponent and you'll see that your decisions change. You won't decide for a down the line winner again, instead you may even play a drop shot. This will instill in your opponent a feeling of uncertainty which will keep their stress level very high. They will not be able to »relax« and know what's coming and calmly play their usual game. They’ll have to be constantly alert and look what you've got up your sleeve again. This will take a lot of their psychological and physical energy.
Martina Hingis also burst on the scene as a very young junior and started to play top WTA players immediately. With only 15 years old she played Lindsay Davenport twice and took a set of her both times. She still couldn’t win against top players like Steffi Graf and Conchita Martinez, but she did come to the finals and put up a good fight. Lost in 5 sets against Steffi Graf in the Masters championships. Steffi had by then won 102 singles tournaments and 21 Grand Slam titles!
She didn't play the name or the fame. She played tennis against a human being. Against a woman who can play tennis very well and that's all... The rest all are only stories which will inevitably make you feel small and unworthy of winning that match. And that's what happens.
Respect your opponent as a human being who is able to play tennis very well. Ignore the past stories and the fame. Play the ball and not the opponent.