NEW YORK — Martina Hingis is arguably the best doubles player in the world, and with two elite Swiss on the men’s singles side, she could be favored for Olympic mixed doubles gold next year.
This year, the 34-year-old Hingis won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open mixed doubles with Indian Leander Paes. She’s the first woman to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in one year since Martina Navratilova in 1985.
Of course, Hingis can’t play with Paes at the Olympics. She must play with a countryman. Will it be Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka?
“You ask the men,” Hingis said, laughing, after capturing her 19th Grand Slam title combining singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the U.S. Open on Friday (she goes for No. 20 in the women’s doubles final Sunday). “I would be very happy to play the Olympics, and I asked Roger. I asked Stan. I think we still have time, but I feel like I’m in a very luxury position to have that opportunity to play with either Roger or Stan Wawrinka.
“If it’s going to happen, great. The answer, sooner or later. Eventually, it’s going to happen, but I think they have bigger things to do right now,” Hingis finished, laughing.
Federer and Wawrinka, who won 2008 Olympic doubles gold, were to be on opposite sides of the net in a U.S. Open singles semifinal later Friday night.
In March, Federer said Hingis had approached him about playing together in Rio:
“I said I’d give it some thought,” Federer said then. “The problem is, I don’t know how I play singles, doubles, mixed [doubles] within an eight-day period [at the Olympics]. To try to win them all, it’s like 15 matches in eight days [15 in nine days in London 2012]. You tell me how that works. I don’t [know]. I have to figure out things and what my priority is at the end of the day.”
In April, Wawrinka had this to say, according to Tennis.com:
“Well, Hingis asked Roger first. Roger took some time to answer, so she asked me. I want to … see what Roger says since she asked Roger first. I don’t want to say yes now.”
So that’s where it stands.
The top challenger to a Swiss Olympic mixed doubles pair could come from Hingis’ mixed doubles and doubles partners on tour — the Indians Paes and Sania Mirza, who lost in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals to eventual gold medalists Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus.
If Hingis competes in Rio, she will have gone 20 years between Olympic appearances.
She was the second-youngest singles player at the Atlanta 1996 Games, behind Anna Kournikova, according to sports-reference.com. Hingis, then 15, lost in the second round in singles in Atlanta but hoped to continue farther in doubles with Patty Schnyder so she could watch equestrian events.
“I have seen the dressage, but I would also like to see the jumping so I hope we can stay one more day,” the Slovakian-born Hingis said in 1996, according to the Independent. “If we lose, I go home.”
She and Schnyder lost in the quarterfinals in Atlanta.
The next year, she rattled off her first three of five Grand Slam singles titles in the 1990s — the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. She skipped the Sydney 2000 Olympics to avoid injury risk and was inactive in 2004 and 2008.
Hingis has exclusively played doubles the last two years and no singles on the WTA Tour since 2007.
In 2011, Hingis, then retired from WTA Tour play, was asked by Federer’s team to consider a comeback. She and Federer discussed playing mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics but decided against it. Mixed doubles rejoined the Olympic program in 2012.
Switzerland did not enter a mixed doubles team in London. Federer and Wawrinka lost in the second round of men’s doubles, after winning gold at Beijing 2008. Federer lost to Andy Murray in the singles final, an Olympic singles gold medal still eluding him.