NEWPORT, Rhode Island - Martina Hingis, a former World No.1 in both singles and doubles who collected 15 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, received the highest honor in tennis on Saturday, getting inducted into the International Tennis Hall Of Fame in Newport.
"I'd like to tell you how deeply honored and moved I am to stand here in front of you today in this wonderful place with so much history," Hingis said. "I can only find words to express feelings I have now being a member of such an elite group our sport has elected to represent millions and millions of people worldwide playing tennis. I could repeat the words said so many times before here, that our sport has given me everything in my life, and it would be the truth. But maybe I can add something special, something to give you a little bit more insight about who I am and what this means to me.
"I was born behind the Iron Curtain, and my mother wanted to tear the curtain apart for me. That is the reason I played tennis as a little girl. In 1980, my mother didn't have many choices for giving me a better life and a chance for freedom to see the world. She chose the game of tennis as a way out of the world and the prison we lived in, so thank you, mom. She also gave me the name Martina after Martina Navratilova who was a great legend and a symbol of freedom in our country in Czechoslovakia.
"As the wall came down in '89, also, thanks to this great land of yours, I was already on the way, so thank you, mom, again, you gave me life, you gave me love, you gave me tennis. You gave me everything you could give me. Thank you, tennis. You gave me the world, and now I honestly am out of words, because there are no words to explain what I feel as you gave me a place here for eternity.
"When I was a little girl," Hingis continued, "I didn't know there was a Hall of Fame. When I was at the top of my game, I did not know there was more than sports. As I stand here now in front of you, I am not sure if I deserve all of this, but what more can I say? Thank you all, and I love you all."
Joining Hingis in the Class Of 2013 were Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell and Ion Tiriac in the Contributor category, and Australian tennis legend Thelma Coyne Long in the Master Player category. Long, who is now 94 years old, won a total of 19 Grand Slam titles between the 1930s and 1950s.
The International Tennis Hall Of Fame & Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis. It offers an extensive museum that chronicles the history of the sport and honors the game's greatest legends. Surrounding the museum are 13 historic grass courts that date back to 1880, and were the site of the first US National Lawn Tennis Championships in 1881.