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Martina Hingis and the Rise of “Santina”

At the age of 15, Martina Hingis became the youngest slam winner of all time when she won the Ladies Doubles title at the 1996 Wimbledon Championships. Next year she became the youngest world #1 ever when she won 3 out of the 4 majors of the year and accumulated a total of 12 titles. Despite her career ending early at the age of 22, she accumulated a total of 40 singles titles and 5 grand slams. During her comeback in 2006 and 2007, she pushed her way back into the top 10 of the world rankings and won 3 more singles titles.

While she is mainly remembered for being the youngest #1 of all time and her slam singles titles, Hingis displayed much greater success in the doubles arena. Her sneaky backhand, world class anticipation, and top notch net game made her a flexible doubles player that could have success with nearly any type of player. In 1998, she won the Calendar Year Grand Slam in doubles, teaming up with Mirjana Lucic for the Australian Open title and Jana Novotna for the final three majors of the year. She won nine grand slam titles in Women’s Doubles when her career (presumably) came to an end. Her flexibility as a doubles player was shown by her doubles grand slam victories with Helena Sukova, Natasha Zvereva, Mirjana Lucic, Jana Novotna, Mary Pierce, and Anna Kournikova. She also had some doubles success pairing with other all-time greats such as Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the latter being an incredibly accomplished doubles player in her own right.

After being elected into the tennis Hall of Fame, Hingis announced her return to Women’s Doubles, pairing with Daniela Hantuchova for the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad. It was a slow return to the top of the game for Hingis, the number of matches they won being countable on one hand. It was not until Miami next year where she teamed up with Sabine Lisicki to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. With Flavia Pennetta she reached the final of the 2014 US Open and won multiple titles in the fall swing, barely missing out on qualifying for the WTA Championships in Singapore.

Her true path to the top of the game however, began with her pairing with Indian Sania Mirza; an accomplished doubles player in her own right but without a Women’s Doubles slam. They started by winning three titles in a row in Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston, allowing Mirza to ascend to the #1 position in doubles for the first time in her career. It was a quiet next few months before they firmly established themselves as the top doubles team in the world by beating the Russian doubles pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the final of the Wimbledon Championships. They erased a 5-2 deficit in the final set and reeled off five straight games to win the title. Despite not winning titles between then and the US Open, they cruised to the title there as well, not losing a single set. With victories in Guangzhou and this week in Wuhan, they currently sit on a 14-match win streak.

Nobody knows what else is in store for this Santina, but there is no doubt that they are the standouts in doubles this year with seven titles, including the last two majors. Hingis’ deceptive, tricky backhand and Mirza’s blistering forehand make for quite the dynamic duo. For Mirza, these past few months have been about reaching a dream, for Hingis, the past few months have been about reliving the glory days of her younger years, bringing along the nostalgics that followed her back in the day.

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