It's not exactly like tearing through the main draw at Wimbledon or the US Open—which she did in her best teenage days—but a more mature, smiling Martina Hingis seems to be enjoying tennis more and more these days as a member of World TeamTennis' New York Sportimes, who take on the Philadelphia Freedoms tonight at Sportime Randall's Island, nestled under the RFK Bridge in the East River.
The 2,500-seat, $19 million facility will be packed to the rafters Thursday night, with New Yorkers screaming and shouting in a fashion that Hingis came to love during her best days at Flushing Meadows.
Tonight, however, the crowd will be there primarily to see two venerable opponents duke it out in New York for the first time since 1980, as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg will take the court for the Sportimes and Freedoms, respectively. The match will be the centerpiece of a fundraising night for the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, but Hingis will be part of the fun as well.
She will take her league-best 36-10 record to the court in hopes of continuing her spirited play, which has kept the Sportimes in second place in the East behind the Washington Kastles.
"I am really enjoying playing tennis, especially in the WTT format," Hingis said. "It is competitive and exciting and I get to play with John [McEnroe] in mixed doubles, so my life couldn't be any better right now."
She is pain free and enjoying married life and a return to the courts, albeit not at the highest levels that she embraced when she was the youngest ever No. 1 at age 18. Hingis won the Masters doubles at the French Open with Lindsay Davenport. She also enjoyed a solid run in Masters doubles at Wimbledon before coming stateside to play a full season for the Sportimes.
She has not disappointed in her play or in her interaction with the fans. The 30-something Swiss signs every autograph and answers every question in every stop, making her a WTT favorite. But tonight she will gladly cede the limelight to two slightly older former superstars.
"There is nothing better than New York, I have such great memories there," she said. "Being part of a special night to raise money for young people who have an interest in the game, and being on a team with John and our other players, is a great thrill for me."
And it's a great thrill for all those who will turn out at WTT Sportime matches to remember a now-mature star who still has a little game, and lots of smiles, in her racquet bag.
Jerry Milani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first-hand.
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