One of the most successful – and beautiful – tennis players in the world, Martina Hingis, started a new life after retiring from professional sport. She got married this year, in September, and now she and her husband are expecting a child. Martina shares her philosophy of life and health in a conversation with the chief editor of SHM magazine.
– Martina, quite some time has been passed since you left professional sports. But you have still been play i ng tennis a nd training , although you have had other issues in your life.
– I have been on continuous vacation now, and it’s so great! However, of course, I have not forgotten about sport. Tennis, horses, walks, cycling… I can’t ‘leave’ tennis, it has given me a lot, and I don’t just mean sporting achievements, victories and medals. Thanks to tennis, I met my spouse, and a completely new stage of my life has started. I can afford to do whatever I want. It’s my life philosophy at present. I do not need to be subject to a strict schedule of training and competitions. I have a beloved husband, I’m pregnant… the birth of a child is the best period in the life for any woman. My mom was also a professional tennis player in the past. However, when I was born, I became her main achievement.
She lived for me, sacrificing her own career; she was with me 24 hours a day. Being a woman, she probably understood me better than dad. We still have a wonderful relationship.
– Do you think parents should always be with their children?
– Yes. It is necessary to experience all moments of life together. It is important for me. Many parents do not spend much time with their children; they spend more time glued to their phones or playing computer games. However, I was brought up differently. Although I had computer games, they didn’t interest me because sport was always more important. And it was much more interesting for me to ski, ride horses, and spend time in nature… we were engaged in training for six hours per day. Four hours were devoted to tennis, and the rest of the time was spent on fitness and other training. We used to vary different types of activities: I would ride a bike, roller skate, run, swim… many active pastimes were available in Switzerland. We spent much time hiking.
When I was 11 years old, equestrian sports were part of training. I liked this a lot! Of course, we also had to take care of the horses – to clean them, feed them. I used to return home dirty. But what an extraordinary joy it is to ride a horse after training….
– However, there are not only victories in the life of an outstanding athlete but also losses. Facing losses, how did you manage to maintain self-control, optimism?
– I diligently analyzed the situation in order to improve and be better next time. I was always working towards the same goal. The feeling that I had pulled out all the stops and that I couldn’t reproach myself, in general, simplified everything. But to achieve these goals you had to train a lot and not spend time at parties. I had no reason to stress! I lost sometimes – 90% of matches I won and I was the best at my level. Maybe five or six athletes can be described as being – the Williams sisters, for example – better than me. In all other cases – maybe it sounds arrogant – the blame for the loss is mine. Of course, stress or the “collywobbles” was still an issue – this was a competition!
– Your husband, Harald Lehmann, is also tied in with sports; he’s a doctor in sports medicine, isn’t he?
– Yes, he is a trauma orthopaedist and the head doctor of the clinic of orthopedics and traumatology at the hospital of the Canton of Zug, and the doctor of the Swiss national tennis team in the Federation Cup. We met at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 – he replaced a doctor in our team who couldn’t come. He usually goes to work at 6 in the morning, and says he will be back at 7 in the evening. I call him at 9 p.m. – he is still there! He works a lot! He is on duty at night once a month. But he likes it.
– Being a doctor, is he responsible for your health?
– We are on the same page concerning my health; we discuss everything together. However, everyone has their own opinion, including in matters of health. Of course, he has experience and knowledge, but as far as my body is concerned, there are details that I know better than him. And I, like any woman, have soft spots for some things that I can’t not indulge in, no matter what anyone says. For example, I’m fond of chocolate. Everything needs to be approached with care – it’s impossible to eat only muesli all the time, especially when you spend five to six weeks away from home! Although some athletes eat that way… well, sometimes I allow myself something harmful for my body and useful for my psyche…
– Even if it does not jibe with the right nutrition for an athlete?
– Yes. I am not a vegetarian and not obsessed with organic products, I have weak spots, but basically I consume food correctly, especially since during tournaments the organizers take care of this. Another thing is that in any national cuisine there is always something very, very tasty… how can you pass it over? Therefore, in Japan I eat rice, in Italy spaghetti, and in America… no, not burgers, there are good restaurants there. In the hotels where athletes are usually placed, there is always meat and fish…
– And what kind of food do you stint on?
– I stint only on one thing: in the evening I refuse to eat carbohydrates. I usually have dinner: for example, pasta, two hours prior to a tennis match, and after that I eat anything. But different situations demand different approaches – it is impossible to absolutize everything. Let’s say the game started at two in the afternoon. I had dinner at noon, and the match was delayed and ended later than planned. In this case, I can eat another banana, for example, or a piece of bread. It is important to pay attention to the content of iron in the body for women. At the age of 14-15, I was diagnosed with iron deficiency; I was prescribed treatment, and my former trainer recommended red meat in my diet once or twice a week. It is, in the long term, better than stuffing yourself with pills. If I had not gone in for professional sports, perhaps I would have avoided the need for such a diet. In addition to iron, magnesium is important, especially for cramps in the legs. There are athletes who take various vitamin complexes and feel fine. But as for me, I take vitamins that are contained in products. I usually consume carbohydrates no later than two to four p.m. At lunch, you can eat rice, spaghetti or pasta, and in the evening, fish or vegetables. My usual dinner is a vegetable salad; it can be cooked quickly. I prepare dressings for it myself, although, my husband cooks better than me; he is keen on preparing delicious dressings. I don’t put on weight from such an evening meal – I can say this for sure, as I always have scales at hand. And although weight is important for an athlete, that extra kilo or two has never been a tragedy for me.
– How much time are you been spending on training at present?
– I don’t do it every day, of course, but I used to ride at least once a week. I do not know how long I will be able to train, we will see (laughs). Activity is of great importance to me. I definitely need to move, and then my conscience will not torment me about the fact that I have eaten one more piece of bread. I am fond of fruits, vegetables (especially raw) and St. Gallen bread. And lately, I have got crazy about pickles (laughs), like all pregnant women all over the world. I used to be a coffee lover, but I have given it up. Now I drink only herbal tea, although I add some honey. I like oolong tea, tea with chamomile.
– All these tips fit well with the concept of a healthy lifestyle!
– I think so. But still it is not enough. People often ask me: what is the philosophy of health? And I answer: first of all, it’s positive energy, and only then everything else follows, including food. I drink warm drink water, water close to body temperature. I like the water from the Swiss resort Bad Ragaz, the temperature of which is 36.5 degrees.
– And this is the place you chose for your wedding. Why?
– This is the birthplace of Harry, my husband, and I often trained there on the tennis courts. This is a part of me, my second homeland. I grew up in this area and know every corner of it like the back of my hand. And we celebrated our wedding in the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz; this is the most beautiful hotel in the world for me! Every time I visit this place, I feel reborn. It is so beautiful! Nature gives me so much energy that you feel like that you can take on the world. And there
is always good weather there. It can be raining throughout the region; however, it will be sunny in Bad Ragaz. And the air is very good there. I don’t need that much. It’s enough for me to come here to rest for the weekend, to spend the night there, and I already feel different. It is like paradise. It’s a completely different world. An oasis. You can forget about all your problems. Our guests, who come from different countries of the world, enjoy it very much. Jacuzzis, pools, saunas, restaurants… everything is fine in Bad Ragaz. And by the way, there is a good golf course.
– Have you taken to golf?
– Just a little. I do a lot of things bit by bit, but what I will never give up on is horses and skiing. And although I have many worries ahead of me, connected with having a child, I will make no concessions. I simply cannot do it. Of course, tennis will remain in my life; it is the closest and simplest activity for me. It would be too hard and unnecessary to start some other career… but concerning different hobbies, why not? Well, in the meantime, I will help my mother run her tennis school. One of our mentees has already become the best player in Switzerland at the age of 13. It is a pleasure for me to watch them training and making progress. And when I advise them and it reaps rewards, they rejoice. And I’m happy.