Guess who's back?
Just days after being enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, five-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Hingis has announced that she is coming back to the WTA Tour for the first time since 2007.
The legendary—and occasionally controversial—Hingis announced on Tuesday that she will be playing doubles in two weeks at the Southern Californian Open in Carlsbad with Daniela Hantuchova.
Nobody knows yet whether this is a one-time trial, the start of a comeback in doubles or even a (seemingly unlikely) complete re-launch of her career.
But one thing is for sure: This is great news for the WTA.
Women's tennis has been beaten up a lot over the past few years, especially because it's been compared to the golden era of the men's game. Since women's sports are always viewed under a harsher microscope, the down times always seem much more dire.
Enter Hingis, who brings a lot of always coveted spice to the WTA tour. She's outspoken, enthusiastic and incredibly charismatic.
She's also one of the all-time greats. Hingis spent 209 weeks at No. 1 in singles (No. 4 on the all-time list) and 35 weeks as the No. 1 in doubles. Along with her 43 singles titles, she has 37 doubles crowns, including 10 Grand Slams.
Simply put, she's a superstar.
Don't get me wrong, I think that the WTA is in great hands right now. The Slamless-No. 1 days are a thing of the past, and with the exception of Wimbledon this year, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka have been mightily consistent at the top of the game over the past 18 months.
There's depth on the tour, too. Inconsistent-yet-dangerous former Grand Slam champions such as Petra Kvitova, Li Na and Sam Stosur are lurking in every draw. Up-and-comers such as Sloane Stephens, Monica Puig, Laura Robson and Madison Keys are making the future look blindingly bright.
But it must be said that the early retirements of players such as Kim Clijsters (now only 30 years old), Justine Henin (31) and Hingis (32) created a very noticeable lull at the top.
After all, Hingis' doubles partner in Carlsbad, Hantuchova, is 30, Serena Williams is 31 and Venus Williams is 33.
Hingis has looked to be in great form during her Maylan World Team Tennis matches the past few summers, and she still seems to have her fitness and competitive drive firmly in tact. Most importantly, unlike a lot of former champions, she clearly still loves the sport and wants to be around it. That's a great sign.
Though she hasn't confirmed her plans past this one tournament in Carlsbad, her statement to the WTA left the door open for more:
I am very much looking forward to making a return to competitive play at the Southern California Open. I remember winning the singles and doubles here in 1997 and winning the singles again in 1999. This has always been one of my favorite events to play. I feel in good shape at the moment after playing World Team Tennis. My competitive spirit is still very much alive and I love being out on court. The tournament at Onmi La Costa Resort & Spa is the perfect place for me to start.
Even though she's only playing doubles, Hingis will still be one of the main attractions at the small event in Carlsbad. She would be anywhere. Regardless of form, Hingis will always draw a crowd. After all, she has more Grand Slam titles than anyone on the WTA not named Williams.
The truth is, Hingis brings energy, notoriety and history with her wherever she goes. She sells tickets and creates headlines. Though she's yet to play a tour match, something tells me she'll be able to hold her own. Her talent stands the test of time.
There's nobody quite like Martina Hingis, and there's always room for her on the WTA Tour. Hopefully she'll decide to hang around for a while this time.