NEWPORT, R.I. -- Conchita Martinez' legendary career spanned 18 years and included victories in every sector of the game. In 1994, she defeated Martina Navratilova to become the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon and was a finalist at the 1998 Australian Open and 2000 Roland Garros. A winner of 33 WTA singles titles and 13 doubles titles, and impressively won medals in doubles across three different Olympic games, in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Athens.
On Saturday, Martinez will join the Class of 2020 as an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame along with Goran Ivanisevic, Dennis Van De Meer and Class of 2021 inductees The Original 9.
WTA Insider: What does it mean for you to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame?
Martinez: I mean, it's a great recognition of your career and it's a great honor to be among so many champions that are already being inducted. So I'm very humbled to be among them is an amazing thing.
Conchita Martinez has a busy week ahead of her.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 17, 2021
After being inducted with the Class of 2020 on Saturday, the three-time Olympic medalist will hop on a plane to Tokyo for the Olympics to coach Garbiñe Muguruza.#EnshrinementWeekend pic.twitter.com/Tbo3S87Cdu
WTA Insider: Tennis has an amazing ability to take young women from all walks of life and put them on an amazing journey. When you first picked up a racquet, did you envision what your life would become?
Martinez: Well, when you first start, you dream of being a tennis player but I started really a little bit late. I was nine years old. I started playing against a wall, so I didn't have really many people to play because I was in a small town. But soon enough, getting better and better, then you realize that you can play with some other players your age and you can win titles and stuff like that. So then you realize, OK, maybe I want to be a professional and I want to become one of the best players in the world.
WTA Insider: When did you realize tennis was more than just a fun game for you and something you might be able to do professionally?
Martinez: Well you just go through a process. I moved to Barcelona when I was 12 years old and I started practicing with the federation and with some other girls and then you start building to tournaments and stuff like that. Your ranking gets better. And then all of a sudden you're playing professional tennis tournaments. You just go with the flow and continue to train and continue to get better because that's what I want to do: train, get better, and being one of the best tennis players in the world. I played 18 years, my career was quite long.
WTA Insider: You had such a beautiful game style, with the backhand slice and heavy topspin forehand. How did you come to play the way you did?
Martinez: I think it was fun. I started playing with a two-handed backhand, but then I changed to a one-handed backhand and that gave me more choices to be a little bit different than everybody else.
I could slice, I could hit with topspin. For me it was fun to be able to do a lot of things with the ball. I used to practice the short angles and a little bit lobs. I have good variety throughout my game and that was fun for me, to place the ball and to see the other player run and to set it up so I can win the points, finally.
WTA Insider: Was it a style that you learned from coaches? Or was this just how you wanted to play?
Martinez: A little bit of everything. To have variety in your game is important. I think it was more my imagination because I used to play the wall and I had a lot of imagination there.
I used to use a lot of ball machines. I remember when I was hitting the ball I would say, okay, now I'm going to do long cross, now it's coming a short cross. I was talking in the middle of the point and just having fun with it. I like to play that way.
WTA Insider: You've accomplished so much, winning Wimbledon, a three-time Olympic medalist, World No.2, and more. When you look back on your career, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
Martinez: It's very tough to only have a first memory. My career was long and I have many, many great memories. But of course, to win Wimbledon was the highlight of my career but I have so many other tournaments that I loved and played well. I have favorite places like Rome where I won four in a row, then in San Diego, where I also have a house there and I felt a little bit like I was playing at home. There were so many places I liked to play.
WTA Insider: Speaking of your Wimbledon win, do you remember what your feelings or expectations were at the start of the tournament and how that changed as the fortnight progressed?
Martinez: Well, I mean, it's hard to have high expectations at Wimbledon because it's a surface where you're not very comfortable, depending on the year, depending on how the grass was playing and all of that. But I was playing better and better. The year before, I played semifinals there and then the next year I felt like I could play well on grass, so I kept my mind open and just work. I practiced as best as I could do to be ready to play The Championships. Every match that I played I kept getting better and better. The semifinals against Lori McNeil, it was really, really long. It could have gone either way but I ended up winning that. Just match by match. You can't really have expectations.
WTA Insider: You were the first Spanish woman to win at Wimbledon. What does that accomplishment mean to you and how did it impact Spanish tennis?
Martinez: That was very big because I remember a lot of players, particularly male players, very good on clay. They were winning Roland Garros, etc. and Wimbledon came and they didn't even want to go there because it was hard for them. Also because they could move the seeded players, for men mostly. So some of them were angry that they didn't keep their ranking. So it wasn't easy. But now I think everybody from Spain is enjoying playing on grass. We just had a junior player that just won The Championships. Many other players, like Rafa and Garbiñe have won The Championships. So now it's huge. Wimbledon is huge. It's very important that we all learn how to play on grass and every surface.