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TENNIS Hingis, 22, getting ready to retire



Published: Mon, February 10, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Plagued by foot injuries, she can't train to compete.

GENEVA (AP) -- Martina Hingis won her first big tennis trophy at the age of 12 and wowed the world with her perfect style.

Now, 10 years later, plagued by foot injury, she seems set to retire from the sport she long dominated.

In an interview Friday, Hingis gave her clearest indication to date that she is planning to withdraw from the competitive circuit and instead concentrate on studying and other off-court pursuits.

"A return to competition is inconceivable, in the short term at least. That is certain," the 22 year-old Swiss told the French sports newspaper L'Equipe.

"Tennis was part of my life for so many years, but now it's finished. And life goes on," she said.

Hingis, who won five Grand Slam tournament titles, had surgery on her right ankle in October 2001 and on her left ankle last May.

Apart from a brief comeback on the WTA tour in the fall, she sat out as Serena and Venus Williams strengthened their hold at the top, transforming the game from a match of skills into power play.

At a tournament in Paris, World No. 1 Serena Williams said Hingis made her raise the level of her game.

"I think Martina stopped at the top, and that's what I want to do," Williams said at the Gaz de France Open on Friday. "I don't think she stopped because she couldn't beat us [the Williams sisters]."

Starting a new life

Since Hingis' withdrawal from competition, she has been living quietly near Zurich. She is attending college to perfect her English and pick up other qualifications for a future career. She rides horses and recently bought an 8-year-old mare Laetitia as "my after-career present."

"There's no question of envisaging a return to the circuit," she told the newspaper.

In an interview last month with the Swiss sports agency, Hingis also said that she may never play competitively again. But her comments to the French paper were much more definitive.

"Stop talking about a comeback," she said. "You have to understand I really appreciate my new way of life ... I am 22 years old and I have my whole life ahead of me. The only thing I can no longer do is to train in a way as to remain competitive."

Manager says it is premature

Despite Hingis' apparent determination to quit, her manager Mario Widmer said it was premature to talk about definitive retirement.

"I am of the view that someone who is 22 years old can't say she's retiring because you don't know what the future holds," Widmer told The Associated Press. However he said it was impossible to predict when -- and if -- Hingis would play again professionally.

Widmer, the partner of Hingis' mother and trainer Melanie Molitor, said that Hingis was in "very, very good spirits."




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