This is a good interview with Martina in which she was very generous with her compliments towards Maria. Very nice to read from a Maria fan's perspective. Martina shows some class and grace here. I look forward to more matches played between them.
Martina also was asked about the "what's special about her" comments and it really seems like they were lost in translation and were a little bit blown out of proportion.
March 17, 2006
M. SHARAPOVA/M. Hingis
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: First question for Martina.
Q. Did you expect that she was going to play such great defense?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, first of all, she has good offense game. She pressure me in the beginning. She play really well.
Maybe compared to the other two matches, she definitely started off a lot better than the previous ones, yeah.
Q. It looked like you were a little frustrated in the second set with your play. You certainly had opportunities after fighting back.
MARTINA HINGIS: For sure. I mean, 4-1, I started playing better. All these chances you have, I think I did have, she always ended up winning those games which I thought could have gone either way.
That's the difference. I mean, that made the difference today. Then, of course, at the end, I don't believe in luck, so the better one always has more luck. You know, I have to say definitely that was the best match she's played so far in the three events we've played.
Q. How was your quality compared to the other two?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, she didn't really give me many chances. You know, I tried to play defense, more offense. But, I mean, I just didn't get many opportunities to really do too much with balls.
Also compared to maybe other matches I've played so far, she doesn't make easy errors, which she probably still did in Tokyo where I might have surprised her, I don't know, with my play. Against her, you don't get away with much any more compared to the other matches. Even today, I mean, still Dubai in the beginning, I had chances. But probably from my side not the best match.
But today I think I didn't do that badly. Yeah, she was just better.
Q. You started moving in closer to the baseline. You thought you were on your way.
MARTINA HINGIS: I thought so, too. That's the thing (laughter). It didn't last too long. I think that's still the deficit I have not having played for three years, not having the stamina. In a semifinals match, you have to go out there and give it all, not just like for a certain amount of time. You have to go out there and show the opponent from the beginning that you're willing to pressure and to dig in deep.
I didn't start off like that. Maybe if I had, it would be a different story. Like I said, you don't get away with a lot of things against a player like her.
Q. Did she intimidate you with the power of her shots?
MARTINA HINGIS: No. I mean, I don't like always the power thing. That's not intimidating any more. All the players always do the same thing, so you're kind of used to that. I've played Lindsay, other players, I've played her a couple times. You know, it's more of the placement now that she really was dictating right/left, right/left pretty much, which she used to play just cross-courts in previous matches. She just really played smart today.
Q. You were saying this is the best she's played against you out of the three matches. Did it feel like she was hitting the ball harder today compared to the other two? Watching it, it seemed that way.
MARTINA HINGIS: I don't know. I mean, you can't compare the surfaces as well because the one in Dubai is a slower hard court than here. Tokyo is just dang fast. It's a total different ballgame. You can't always compare the situations because the surface is different.
Q. What is the feeling now after this semifinal loss? Happy to get to the semis, but not to the winner's circle?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, I thought like I had a good preparation until getting to the semifinals. I felt like maybe the previous times I was a little tired, a little exhausted already, but not this time around.
Of course, it's 11:00 matches, it's not my time to wake up. Even this time around, I felt like, yeah, everything was fine, in the morning, waking up, all that...
Yeah, I mean, she was -- I mean, all I have to say is just too good today, and I'm happy there is more tournaments coming up. I have to work on certain things and try to get better till Miami.
Q. Another positive step?
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, for sure. I mean, being in the semifinals, if someone told me, "You're going to make the semifinals, beating Lindsay, Safina, making it to the semis," probably I would have signed the contract in the beginning of the week.
But now that you've come that far, you're like, of course. I wouldn't be a competitor if I be satisfied with getting there. You always just want to get more out of it.
Q. What's the schedule after Miami?
MARTINA HINGIS: I don't know.
Q. Nothing in the US? Back to Europe?
MARTINA HINGIS: I don't know yet. We'll see how I do there.
Q. At the end of the year when you announced your comeback, you said a couple things, and please correct me if I don't have your quotes right. You said you were looking forward to playing Sharapova most, then you kind of got your wish and played her three times. Will you still be looking forward to playing her the next match?
MARTINA HINGIS: Yes. Even more now (smiling). No, I think she's very challenging. She's a great competitor, fighter out there. I think playing her, it always gets the best out of me. Out of her today definitely also.
You know, watching her first-round match, second, I'm like, "Okay, I wish she'd play like that against me." Obviously, champions can always step it up a notch when they need to.
I just know what I have to do better. Hopefully I get another chance playing her, yeah.
Q. What exactly do you have to do better? You moved her around pretty well. Her movement has improved a lot. When she's off balance, she isn't missing as much as she used to. Do you have to be more offensive or a conditioning thing where you need to be able to last longer in points?
MARTINA HINGIS: Yeah, like you were talking before, you know, the 3-4 game, I thought I had her. Adding a lot of topspin on it. I'm not going to hit winners out of that, but just make her tired. Then wait for my opportunities. That's definitely the game plan. I already talked to my mom.
I know that's really tough to do because in my position, I mean, I know I can't overpower her, but that's one strategy which would work. Now I have to go for that and just last longer in that kind of game.
Sometimes it's mentally a little bit hard because you know you go out there and you have to fight and dig every point. But that's my only chance. Not only for three, four games wear her out, but then she can't serve as good, she's not going to run as well. But then it's just really out last her. That's what Justine is doing. That's why Mauresmo is winning now. That's the way it should be or it can be.
Q. You seemed to have really great crowd support today. Did you feel that way?
MARTINA HINGIS: I did feel it, especially when I was coming back being down 4-1 in the second. 4-3, I came back. Toward the end, you know, definitely you feel the atmosphere, the support. It's really nice to have that.
Q. Most would certainly say your return has been astounding in the first quarter of the year. You worked in the media. Could you step back and summarize this return in one phrase or one word or two.
MARTINA HINGIS: I won't have any regrets any more. No matter what happens now, I know I've come a far way. That was probably one of my biggest fears, to come back and disappoint. Hopefully that's one thing I didn't want to blame myself, of course, because of what I've accomplished in my life beforehand, in my kind of first career, however you want to call it. Just really go out there and play good tennis.
Now I think I've come a far way. I haven't won a tournament yet or Grand Slams or whatever. They're coming up. But I think already that I show that I still got some game.
Q. What were you doing a year ago during this Indian Wells, Key Biscayne stretch?
MARTINA HINGIS: I was in Miami to watch. Actually, I was in the US during this time, watching it on TV. In Miami, I spent a couple days. Five days I was there watching.
Q. You said earlier you were enjoying this more the second time around. Do you think part of the reason is because you're having to work that much harder, now you're enjoying the rewards you can get?
MARTINA HINGIS: I don't think things were coming easily before. It's not like you win a Grand Slam out of nowhere.
No, I think right now what I have to focus on is really the top 10 players. There's always somebody else who's playing well. Probably the top four or five are very much the same ones at each tournament I've played now.
You know, if I want to win an event like here or Miami or a Grand Slam, that's what you have to aim for. That's pretty much it.
Q. You're saying you're feeling positive, things are going well. Your voice sounds like you're a little frustrated.
MARTINA HINGIS: Well, I am.
Q. Frustrated that you weren't able to take that step because you think inside the game is there and you should be pushing through these matches now?
MARTINA HINGIS: Yeah, because it's over and over the same thing. I don't know. I mean, I've had a good win against Davenport. I didn't think I played the greatest match against Safina, but it was good enough.
Today there's not much more I could have done except like really having, you know, better stamina. But that's not one thing that you can gain overnight. I have to just go back home and train that, from the beginning, from the base on.
Q. The other quote from earlier in the year, I'm sure you meant it in the nicest possible way, you said you don't know what the big thing about Maria is. Today you gave her credit, which was nice. Is it different watching her on TV and being on the court with her? Were you misled about her? Did you not give her enough credit at the beginning of the year when you said that, or did you say that?
MARTINA HINGIS: What did I say?
Q. That you don't know what the big thing about Maria is.
MARTINA HINGIS: If I haven't played her, I mean, yeah, that's what I wanted to feel myself on court. Sometimes you can't see it.
I mean, she serves good on big points. She plays -- she doesn't overdo it. Like shots 30-All, being up a breakpoint when I had the chances, she's not going to miss during those times. That's the difference between a top five -- a top player and the rest of it. That's what she's smart about.
Hope this settles this issue. I really love that Martina is back. She's added a new interesting dimension to women's tennis. Also, as a Maria fan, I really think she's motivated Maria to improve her game all the more. Young players can look up her and her style of play as points of reference and as things to emulate.
I can post the other semifinal interviews too if people are interested.