Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis on their chemistry and what titles mean to their countries
Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis came together in March this year and have been on a roll ever since
Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis came together in March this year and have been on a roll ever since - notching doubles titles for fun. At US Open, the top seeded pair did not lose a single set in a marauding performance from start to finish to earn their second consecutive Grand Slam title.
The Indo-Swiss duo have been in red-hot form and on Sunday, stream-rolled past the fourth seeded pair of Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova. It took the top seeds only 70 minutes to wrap up the final 6-3 6-3 against the fourth seed Kazakh-Australian combination at Flushing Meadows.
Mirza and Hingis were in understandably upbeat mood speaking after the match.
Q. You obviously won the US Open singles 18 years ago. How do you compare the feeling walking off the court after winning the doubles relative to winning the singles?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, I won the doubles in '98, and that was like finishing off the Grand Slam. I won all four in that same year. It was just like incredible. That time was with Jana Novotna, and we just felt like -- in a similar position now with Sania.
Because when you win many matches, many tournaments together, you just feel like you go on court, and the way Sania was playing the last, you know, three, four matches, it was just, yeah, incredible. She was hitting bombs from the baseline, and I was able to, the last two matches, pick it up and hit some good volleys to finish it off.
That's what works the best for us. We all felt like there was a little bit of nervousness, definitely, especially today because, I mean, like you said, it's been a while, 18 years.
But it feels like it's doing it all over again. It's like I don't think about, Okay, last time it was 18 years ago. It's what counts for me is like right now today in this moment. I know I have the support and the trust that I have for her shots and for her game. It's even building up every time we step out together.
Q. This partnership is working out pretty well. Wimbledon and then follow-up here. That's two Grand Slams in a summer. Talk about what's working and clicking for you guys.
SANIA MIRZA: Well, so much obviously. We started playing in March, obviously in America, and we won three out of three. That rarely happens. I mean, anyway, but especially when you start playing with someone.
We hit it off, and, you know, obviously we have become more friends now. We were more acquaintances before, but now we have become friends. I think it helps in tough moments like today, like, you know, we're struggling to close out matches.
I think we trust each other on and off the court. I think that helps us through a lot of tough moments on the court. Obviously our games match, you know, kind of complement each other, so to say, you know, with her at the net and from me at the back.
I think that's the best combination. We try to help each other out if the other one is struggling. If both of us are not struggling then we win tournaments. (Laughter.)
Yeah, that's kind of the key. We are happy to win our second slam together. We didn't think when we started playing obviously this was going to happen so soon. Hopefully we can keep building. Obviously we are the No. 1 team in the world, so we have to keep building on this.
Q. You said the other day with Leander that you guys can walk on to the court with a bit of a swagger in that you have had such success together. You know, the way you two sort of steamrolled through this tournament. You didn't lose a set. Coming out, being No. 1, you can have that swagger. Do you feel invincible with you two?
MARTINA HINGIS: The only match I felt a bit like I was a bit lame was against the Chan sisters. We played them in the previous two tournaments and we'd won one. Already going into this tournament we know we have to play the best.
Every time in the beginning against them is the same thing, but we managed to get through those difficult moments. We have done that in the past, especially in the Wimbledon finals where we came a 5-2 deficit and we find a solution and we find a way to win.
I think that really helps us getting through the events like this. I know with Sania definitely in the Grand Slams, the big events, she's like peaks unbelievable. I think that's an Indian thing or the champions have inside them that they know when to peak and when to play well and when it counts.
The same in Friday's final: 7-All when Leander hit that down-the-line winner. He didn't hit a forehand the whole match, but he put it in there the whole time.
And Sania, I can manage the volleys at the net. She sets me up so greatly. We don't even have to like suffer. It was like a pretty convincing match. It works well.
We have our strategies, and when I can, when she puts some volleys in extra is a bonus; when I hit some winners from the baseline or I win some points, that's like even extra bonus. We know what positions work for us, and the other is extra.
That's why it looks so convincing at the end of the day today, 3-3. And we had break chances even prior that. I think sometimes it could be even easier.
Q. You talked about doubles 17 years ago. How do you think doubles is perceived today relative to 17 years ago?
MARTINA HINGIS: I think especially we talked about that yesterday. In the women's game, we have a lot of singles players playing the game, but sometimes they just don't go through.
I mean, Flavia won the title yesterday, but we beat them in the semifinals -- was it Wednesday already? And it was like 4 and 1. So it's not necessary that the women's singles player don't play, but sometimes they are successful, like Sara Errani or Vinci was, and that helps them in the singles game.
But also Flavia was a great. She has two Grand Slam titles. I think in the women's game you see that a lot more that you have singles players play the game, but don't necessarily -- are very, you know, successful.
I mean, you have the top 5. They sometimes don't even play because they weren't very good. It's not like Halep tried. Wozniacki played, Ivanovic, but they don't win slams. They try to focus more on the singles.
But I think that's a little bit of a difference in men's. But definitely lately it's been in the women's that they also try to play, but doesn't mean that they have to win right away.
Q. Any plans to take up singles again?
MARTINA HINGIS: No, thanks. I was just like practicing yesterday and I almost hurt myself. Oh, my God, it's a long season, hard court season. We play six weeks in a row. I have still play also TeamTennis. Turning 35 at the end of the month, so I just keep it the way. I rather win alongside Sania and Leander Grand Slam titles than having to struggle with my body.
Q. Sania and Martina, I don't think the best (indiscernible) game could have united this mix. Did you have all have friends and colleagues encouraging you to contact one another? Was somebody trying to put this together?
SANIA MIRZA: I think it's just too bad we didn't get together before. We have known each other a long time and played a lot of singles matches against each other for many years. Then I stopped; she stopped.
You know, and then, yeah, it just so happened it was more about timing, really, I think. She played the backhand court; I play the forehand court; we were obviously good at our sides of the court.
We just happened -- at that point in February when we spoke in Dubai we weren't really happy with our current partners we were playing with. Doubles is about timing, as well, you know. Maybe if we played together before, you know, before in her...
MARTINA HINGIS: It's not like we weren't happy. It's just new energy. Sometimes you need that energy that works. Either it works or it doesn't.
SANIA MIRZA: So it was just about timing. It was not really anyone wasn't really pushing. We used our brains and we were like, Oh, maybe we can play well together? And we did. That was obviously --
MARTINA HINGIS: Just like the first practice, that was awesome.
SANIA MIRZA: We had the worst first practice ever, ever. We played, and we were like, Oh, my God, we cannot play together. We won one game I think out of 12. We were like, Maybe not. Then, yeah.
Q. Where was that practice?
SANIA MIRZA: Doha?
Q. Why did you stay together after that?
SANIA MIRZA: Because practice. That's how much practice means. (Laughter.) After a certain point of time in your career, you know, you practice. We always joke between each other that we can never win practices. We never win. Like we try, but we are always struggling to win practices.
It's how you feel when you play a match. You can't -- somebody can and some people can't.
MARTINA HINGIS: Some are the opposite, practice champions.
SANIA MIRZA: We just try to play our games and, you know, if we win, we win. In practice, if we don't, we don't. What's important is coming out here and, you know, putting your best forward and we were able to do that.
MARTINA HINGIS: It was my 20th, exactly. I was in the Hall of Fame dinner last night and Pam Shriver was sitting next to me. She's like, you know, I've got 22. I've got 22. She was like going on that one. (Laughter).
No, it's amazing. I would have never thought to be able to go that far, especially this year, winning five, you know, three in the mix and now two in the doubles, which means so much, yeah.
Q. You look back to the ones as a teenager, and if you said 35, does it ever lose its luster?
MARTINA HINGIS: No, especially now I think it means even more. It's different. Of course, singles titles, those five no one can ever take away from me. I will be forever proud about what I achieved in my early days.
But also, you know, being the youngest one here and there, what I was able to do, like looking back at it is incredible. When I see 15, 16 years old today, it's like, you know, playing juniors and all that has -- so much has changed.
Yeah, so today it's, like I said, everything for me it a bonus.
Q. Do you see it continuing endlessly?
MARTINA HINGIS: Endlessly, no. At this point it's like I'm not going to say like Flavia yesterday, right? I'm retiring. She waited probably 20 years to get this point and having a Grand Slam is amazing.
Q. Martina Navratilova kept on until she was 48, 49.
MARTINA HINGIS: Yeah, but I'm not Martina Navratilova.
Q. Can you talk about what a victory means at home for you? You mentioned a billion people are watching you. What does it mean for India?
SANIA MIRZA: Well, obviously a lot. I know for a fact I came off and both my phones were -- I mean, they are going off right now as we speak. I mean, it's obviously, everyone was watching live. It was 9:30 in the evening. Everyone is having dinner probably in India at that point and watching the match.
It was perfect timing. I mean, Grand Slams mean a lot, but obviously being a woman and being the first one to be able to achieve everything that I'm achieving is amazing for, you know, not just India, for Indian women, but for Indian sports, for women to pick up sports in the country and that side of the world.
So I hope they're proud.
MARTINA HINGIS: They are. You got just the highest award, so she went to India, picked up her award, and came back. She flies to India like it's around the corner.
SANIA MIRZA: It's a long flight.
Q. You mentioned earlier a similarity between -- you mentioned the Indians being obviously Leander and Sania. Do you something similar in there, culturally, work ethic, something about it that translates to a good partnership with you on the court?
MARTINA HINGIS: Yeah, I think the understanding for each other and for the sport and for, like, Leander said the culture, the upbringing. Although we come from different parts of the world, it's the way our parents, you know, Imran, Sania's dad, taught her how to play tennis, was always there and very supportive. I had the same in my mother.
I think the way we were brought up is very similar. Tennis was priority. Everything else around it was, you know, tried to make us better as a tennis player, but also my mother was not her first -- she played tennis and she was professional, but also came from another sport.
Her dad was a cricket family. My mother was a cross-country skier. I think coming with this other mentality into tennis that is a singles sport is very different, but we have this team sport in us. I think that's to be there to build on a team and the work ethics, and all of this is there.
I think that's very important. Even like one of us doesn't always have a great day, but we know we can rely on each other, and eventually we build on that and it's going to come.
Like I didn't have a first game; she won all the points. I want to win a point. I want to have the game. Didn't happen then and there, but we know we can trust each other and pick it up and we know it's going to happen.
Q. Can you talk about what Roger is doing right now specifically for Switzerland and also at the age of 34 and how he's playing?
MARTINA HINGIS: Yeah, incredible. I mean, I think I haven't seen him play like this in the last three years since he won Wimbledon finals. He had a great season; played some incredible tennis. I think also what he tried to do, like in Cincinnati, just like to break the rhythm of the players with that SABR thing, right? He's been pulling it off pretty cool.
The way he's been playing fitness-wise and health-wise he's been at the peak since I said maybe last time three years ago, and maybe some shots even better.
It's going to be a great final, hopefully. I will be here and watching, I guess.
Q. What has Stefan Edberg's...
MARTINA HINGIS: I don't know. Probably only he can answer this question. I don't know. I'm not there.
Q. What does it mean to win five Grand Slam titles in one year?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, when I first started two years ago playing some doubles, it wasn't that successful and I kind of stopped for like six months and was helping coaching and all this, you know, with Sabine. So I wasn't really playing much again.
Then once I won the title with her in Miami, that just kind of got it all going again. I said, We should be grateful for that victory with Sabine, because otherwise it wouldn't have happened. All of this today, I think incredible. It's a tremendous bonus in my career of tennis.
Interview courtesy USOpen.org
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