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Hingis: Keys to Growing the Game

By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, July 15, 2021

Martina Hingis knows all about the joys of multi-tasking.

One of the few champions to hold the world No. 1 ranking in singles and doubles simultaneously, Hingis' creative all-court acumen was predicated on shrewd court sense and sharp technique she learned from her mother and coach Melanie Molitor.

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Now a mother herself, Hingis closed the 2021 ITF World Participation Conference sharing her thoughts on growing the game she's gleaned through her experiences as a former student, world champion and coach.

The third edition of the conference, held virtually July 12-14th, highlighted innovation and technology in teaching and expanding tennis. Hingis said the human touch is vital to growing grass-roots tennis.

Hall of Famer Hingis sees two essential elements for tennis to attract new players: make it fun and create more group training for juniors to encourage young players to continue playing tennis rather than switch to popular team sports, including soccer and basketball.

The 40-year-old Hingis, who partnered Roger Federer to lead Switzerland to its first Hopman Cup, said creative coaching is crucial to retaining players' interest.

“Most of the time it’s family members that are the first drive to introduce you to the game,” Hingis told the ITF World Participation Conference. “Then the coach helps to make you better and actually enjoy the game. That’s the really crucial point. It takes a really good coach to catch the attention of children, to have fun that they want to come back and play more tennis.” 

Currently introducing her two-and-a-half year-old daughter, Lia, to the sport, Hingis said the competition and camaraderie she gained from her childhood tennis training infused her with self-confidence in life.

“For me, it was really the group drive,” Hingis said. “I had a really good friend at the court who was five years older than me and I knew that if I wanted to play with her against the boys then I would have to get better or be thrown out of the group!  

“That made me want to go back and prove myself. Winning is a driving motivation. You have that feeling of getting better and wanting more—that’s the key to success. Especially for children, it builds self-confidence, and getting a medal was the highlight of the tournament.” 

The 2021 ITF World Participation Conference gave viewers a sneak peek at the 2021 ITF Global Tennis Report, which details an increase in tennis participation globally.

The game has emerged as an ideal pandemic sport because it's played at safe socially-distanced spaces, is a non-contact sport (providing you're not channeling chest-bumping Bryan brothers in your doubles celebration) and is truly a lifetime sport. 

Photo credit: Christopher Levy