“Hall of Fame Live,” the International Tennis Hall of Fame's series on Facebook Live, hosted another interview with a WTA Legend on Wednesday, as Spanish star Conchita Martínez discussed her superb career, including her stirring run to the Wimbledon singles title 26 years ago.
Former World No.2 Martínez chatted with commentator Blair Henley about many topics, including her upcoming induction as one of the newest members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Martínez was meant to be inducted into the shrine this summer alongside 2001 Wimbledon men's singles champion Goran Ivanisevic, but their ceremony will be postponed until next summer.
Nevertheless, Martínez got to gaze upon the already-installed plaque commemorating her stellar exploits, which started when she turned pro at age 16. Martínez entered the Top 10 of the WTA singles rankings just one year later, and by the end of her lengthy career, she had won 33 WTA singles titles, 13 WTA doubles titles, three Olympic medals, and five Fed Cup championships.
"To be there in the Hall of Fame is a great achievement," said Martínez. "To be there with so many unbelievable names is going to be very, very, very nice. I'm going to have some friends [at the induction], I'm going to hopefully have some family there, that was the plan. I'm looking forward to it."
A former Fed Cup captain who has moved into coaching, Martínez is now in Geneva doing a training block with her charge, former World No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza. The team is eyeing more titles once the tour resumes -- but Martínez will not be joining Muguruza on TikTok, where the current Spanish No.1 is demonstrating her exceptional dancing skills.
“Not a chance," Martínez laughed, when Henley asked if the Hall of Famer will show off her moves alongside Muguruza. "We often laugh about it. She’s an amazing dancer, and I have zero skills. No coordination for dancing, so I’m not going to put myself through that, that’s for sure!”
As it is currently the fortnight in which 2020 Wimbledon was scheduled to take place before the hiatus in the sporting calendar occurred, conversation naturally turned to 1994 Wimbledon, where Martínez claimed the crown jewel of her singles career.
By that week, Martínez had won 18 singles titles, but over half of those had come on clay, and she had never reached a grass-court final up to that point. At that time, the Spaniard was in the middle of a dominant run on the clay courts of Rome, where she won four consecutive singles titles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia from 1993 to 1996.
However, Martínez came into 1994 Wimbledon knowing she had attained a strong result at the event the year before, where she made a somewhat-surprising run to the semifinals.
"Grass is a very difficult surface," said Martínez. "It's not easy, if you don't go with an open mind, and if you say, 'Okay, I cannot play on this surface, this is too hard' -- which, a lot of the time, I did."
"After those  semifinals, I had a very open mind for practicing before the tournament, and just to be a little more accepting that you're not going to play your perfect game," Martinez continued. "It's impossible, because you get low bounces and weird bounces here and there.
"It's not going to be perfect, and if you accept those things and you're okay accepting that, you get better and better. That's a little bit how it happened."
With that mindset, Martínez did get better and better on the London lawns in 1994. She matched her semifinal showing of the year before, and this time around, she squared off against unseeded American Lori McNeil in the final four.
Despite her lack of seeding, McNeil was a grass-court expert, and had proved it again by upsetting No.1 seed Stefanie Graf with a seismic shock in the first round of the tournament. Martinez and McNeil put on an incredible, lengthy battle in their clash, as they both sought their first-ever Grand Slam final.
"Sometimes you're in a very good frame of mind," Martinez reminisced about the McNeil match. "I really wanted to win. I was playing good; every match of that championship, I was building up. I felt like I was under pressure a lot, because Lori was serving and volleying, she was coming into the net every chance she had, so that puts a lot of pressure, and then to hold your serve."
Ultimately, it was Martínez who defeated McNeil in their grueling encounter, 3-6, 6-2, 10-8, and she would play her maiden major final on the grass of Wimbledon.
"Following your routine and believing in yourself is a big thing when you play a match," said Martínez, when thinking back to what pulled her through that epic.
Martínez then found herself in her first Grand Slam singles final on her least heralded surface at that time. It would get no easier in the final, as she would face nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova -- who, along with John McEnroe, she cited as the players she loved to watch most as a budding tennis player.
"Playing Martina was amazing, to play her on grass," said Martínez. "On clay, I beat her in Rome, it was like a few months before Wimbledon. Actually, I felt quite confident that I was playing good."
"I was really, really ready to play," the Spanish star said of the final. "I was passing well, I was playing well. The surface was playing good for me because it didn't rain that much that year."
Indeed, her passing shots and backhand slices were on point during the match against the serve-and-volleying connoisseur Navratilova. The pair contested a three-set classic, and Martínez finally got the better of her heroine, prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, to hoist the Venus Rosewater Dish.
"I was a little bit nervous, but not as nervous as some other times, so that helped me," Martínez stated. "And to close it out, [it was] just to believe, to go for your shots, and follow your routines, and that's what I did."