ZIELONA GORA, Poland (Reuters) - It is not a gimmick and the way Martina Hingis is talking, it will be no mismatch either. The original ‘Swiss Miss’ means to be a hit again on her return to big-time singles combat in a Fed Cup match against Poland on Saturday.
After the Swiss announcement on Friday, made amid some excitement in a provincial Polish town hall, that she will play her first tour-level singles for eight years against Agnieszka Radwanska in the World Group playoff, Hingis declared: “I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could help the team.”
Being paired with the world number nine Radwanska should, in theory, be like being chucked to the lions for someone who has retired twice and concentrated purely on doubles while occasionally messing around in exhibitions and low-rent league singles.
Yet as Radwanska, who idolized the five-times grand slam champion as a youngster and whose similarly clever, elegant game will make Saturday’s clash one for tennis purists and geometrists, smiled: “You are talking about Martina. She’s still dangerous.”
She should know, having lost a one-set exhibition in India with the 34-year-old Hingis in November.
This, though, is very different. After Hingis’s brilliant recent doubles performances with Sania Mirza, winning three tournaments in five weeks, Swiss Fed Cup captain Heinz Guenthardt asked her about returning to the fray.
She needed no persuading as she has to play to qualify for next year’s Olympics where, she explained, she would happily partner either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka in the mixed doubles.
The last time Hingis saw Fed Cup action, she took on the grand Spanish duo of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez in the 1998 final and almost prevailed single handedly, winning both singles rubbers.
Her team mate tomorrow, Timea Bacsinszky, remembers: “I watched that final on television, while eating a croque monsieur.” Now she can hardly credit she is playing alongside her.
When an injury crisis developed, Guenthardt asked Hingis to consider the singles as well as doubles. “Whooah! That’s different!” she responded, before asking for a night to sleep on “a tough decision”. “Okay, let’s go for it,” she told him the next day.
She is pencilled in for three rubbers in two days. Too exacting, perhaps? Well, she looked in brilliant shape in training, as did those sweet volleys.
“I’m excited,” beamed Hingis. “They way I’ve been playing, I deserve to be here -- and I have nothing to lose.”
Editing by Toby Davis