Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan are one of the first doubles teams to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. A three-time doubles champion at the WTA Finals, Hingis will be making her eighth appearance at the season-ending event, while Chan will be making her fourth appearance.
After being fierce rivals throughout much of the 2016 season, when Hingis was partnered with Sania Mirza and Chan played with her sister Chan Hao-Ching, the Swiss-Chinese Taipei duo joined forces in February and have won five titles this season, including two Premier Mandatory titles at the BNP Paribas Open and Madrid Open.
WTA Insider caught up with the experienced duo to talk about their successful partnership and why qualifying for Singapore means so much.
WTA Insider: You were both playing in Singapore last year on opposite sides of the net. Did you think it was going to be possible that you were going to be qualifying for Singapore as a team?
Hingis: I think at that time we didn't think much about what was going to happen in the future, especially Latisha because she was playing with her sister. So I had some work to do too. It's not easy to break up the family (laughs). But now it's nice to be back and qualify for Singapore and I'm just really enjoying this partnership and really enjoying our next challenges.
WTA Insider: Last year Martina, you split with Sania Mirza in the middle of the season, and then reunited for Singapore. Will it mean more for you to come to Singapore as a unit that's been together for the whole year?
Hingis: We knew each other's games. We didn't split up a long time ago before we played Singapore. So we knew what to expect from one another. We had played together for two years and for that week we tried to make it work. There's not much time to look back. Those are the eight best teams in the world and every match is a tough one. We won two years ago, we made semifinals last year. I'm looking forward to going back. Just qualifying for Singapore means a lot. To be steady and have a very high standard the whole year, it's a reward that you go to Singapore.
WTA Insider: Latisha, you and your sister were one of the toughest teams for Martina and Sania. You were the last team to beat them before they went on a 41-match winning streak. Did it feel like, if you can't beat them, you might as well join her?
Chan: It feels funny to talk about it because it was just last year. Since February we started to play together and it didn't take much time for us to qualify for Singapore. I think it's a pretty good effort as a team. I have enjoyed a lot to play with one of my toughest opponents. I'm very much looking forward to everything that's going to happen in Singapore.
WTA Insider: It was a good start in the Middle East but it really started to get going for you at Indian Wells. You've now won five titles, two of the first three Premier Mandatories. Could you have expected this much so soon?
Hingis: We were hoping for success. Obviously we felt good together in that practice session. I think that's why we chose to actually play together and team up. We are very determined players and you always set very high goals. Latisha has been in Grand Slam finals before, I've done a few things (laughs). We aim for every high stakes and I think we deserve it. I think our results match up with what we expected to do.
WTA Insider: Do you have a favorite title run so far?
Chan: Every single title means a lot to us because every title has a different story behind it. I think the most important thing is no matter what happens we support each other. Because as a player you can't feel good every single day, but that's what your partner is here for. She's here to support you and to understand that and if you're not doing well I'll be there for you. I think that's the very strong part of partnership, to trust each other. That's why at some tough matches we can survive and there have been many tough matches. It's not just the tennis side, it's the mental side. I think that's one of our strengths.
WTA Insider: How important is it when you're a new team is it to spend time together off-court?
Hingis: For me that's always been the key to success. I think every time I play with someone, you do spend automatically a lot of time together on and off-court. That's what makes it special and that's what makes it nice to be on tour. You travel 35-40 weeks a year, you spend more time with your partner than your relatives and family. In my case I have to get along and be able to give everything and trust the partner. That's what makes it work and click at the end of the day. You reach a little higher, stronger, and try a little bit harder every time.
WTA Insider: What are the pros and cons of going from paying with your sister to playing with one of the greatest doubles players of all time?
Chan: Playing with my sister and Martina is totally different. Martina is a very easy-going person and she's always nice with everybody. Sometimes I have my emotions but she always takes it easy and she talks to me. We speak about everything. When I don't feel good I talk to her and we try and find a way. She understands how I feel.
I'm a bit younger than her. She has more experience than I do so sometimes she can give me good advice. It's not just a partnership. I think I've learned quite a few things from her.
WTA Insider: On the evolution of the doubles game. It used to be about getting to net. The modern game has turned into a combination of power and finesse. Talk about the contrast on the court.
Hingis: I think my partners in the past have been like Latisha, other than Jana Novotna who used to serve and volley. I'm more of a technical player and strategic on the court, someone with the power that Latisha brings to the game is definitely key. It makes it difficult for the opponents to know what to expect. When they get the ball from Latisha it's big and heavy, and then from me, it's more angles and twists and turns. I think that's why we're so successful and why it's been working. I think you see a lot of teams function like that and you try to be better on the given day.
Chan: As a team, the way you play with the rules, with the scoring and super tiebreakers, you have to be really focused on the important points, I think we've done that really well. So when it's really close I think we can be the better team in the match. We use each other's strengths really well.
WTA Insider: There have been a lot of shifts in the teams this year. Do you think the fact that you've been able to stick together throughout the season so far that it helps you on those big points as opposed to the newer teams who are still trying to figure themselves out?
Hingis: Definitely, when there is a new team then experience comes in. But on the other hand you don't know what to expect sometimes so you have to be ready for anything to come at you. So there are pros and cons. Sometimes a new partnership can bring new motivation and new energy. So you never know if it's working for you or against you. I think the key is to really have a solid base to build on. Then you can survive the scares that are really crucial moments in the match. Once you get through those, easy peasy, right?
WTA Insider: What are you most looking forward to in your Singapore return?
Chan: Well I'm very excited to return to Singapore again because I'm Asian! The finals mean a lot to all the girls on the tour. To qualify with my new partner, I'm very excited about it. Of course we'll try to win as much as we can. Every girl is aiming for the trophy. So we'll have to put extra energy and focus on the ball and reach the goals that we want.
Hingis: It's the cherry on top of the cake that you get to go to Singapore. It's a long season. You look for that little bit of motivation at the end of the year. Already being there you feel like you really deserve it. The city is beautiful and the tournament is definitely above many others. It's the goal next to the Grand Slams to go to Singapore and if you get home with the trophy, even better!
Hear more from Hingis and Chan on the WTA Insider Podcast: