Martina Hingis has been smiling for photographers since she arrived at Zurich's Sihl City shopping centre. She has the air of a famous model, as she calmly handles reporters and photographers with poise and patience. She looks the part too. Her hair is freshly brushed and she is wearing a fitted wool skirt and chunky ankle boots at the end of her perfect legs.
It is exactly those legs that give her away. Athletic and toned, they are legs that belong to the youngest Grand Slam tennis champion of all time. They are legs that have taken her places--from curtseying before Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at Wimbledon to stepping up to receive a solid silver French Open trophy.
Hingis is here today to compete in the 'VlP' heat of the Women's Parking Challenge (an event to find the best female parallel parker)--just slightly less pressure than what she is used to. In true style, she ends up taking a respectable second place. When we sit down to chat afterwards, she tells me competitions involving cars are not new to her--she won her first car before she could even drive. Surprisingly, she was still nervous today: 'I'm not used to having people watch me park. But it was good to see others [hadn't done] so well by the time I was up. I was a bit more relaxed after that."
A place in tennis history
Her competitive spirit helped Hingis become one of the best in her profession. Known for her cerebral approach to tennis and sharp technical skills, Hingis holds a series of 'youngest ever' records. In 1993, aged just 12, she was the youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam junior title--the girls' singles at the French Open. Three years later, she became the youngest Grand Slam champion of all time, when she teamed up with Czech Helena Sukova at Wimbledon to win the women's doubles.
In 1997, she bagged the title of the youngest Grand Slam singles winner of the 20th century when she beat former champion Mary Pierce to win the Australian Open. A few months later--still only aged 16--she achieved the ultimate milestone: she became the youngest number one women's tennis player in history. In her long list of achievements, the latter is the one that she is most proud of: "It's a record that hasn't been broken. And because players today can only start on the professional circuit at 15, it will be almost impossible to break the record," she says.
All in the family
Looking at her family tree, it is easy to see from where Hingis's passion and...