There’s not much Martina Hingis and Venus Williams haven’t done when it comes to tennis, but Wednesday night was a first for both.
Longtime rivals with 12 Grand Slam singles titles between them, Williams and Hingis played on the same side of the net for the first time, teaming up for the women’s doubles set in the World Team Tennis match between the Washington Kastles and the Texas Wild.
With Williams representing the Kastles in women’s doubles and singles, Washington beat Texas, 23-18. Hingis and Williams won their women’s doubles set, 5-2.
“We’ve spent so much time as rivals growing up,” Williams said before the match. “We push each other to get better.”
It’s been seven years since Hingis retired from playing singles on the WTA Tour, but Williams still remembers that Hingis had a one-match edge on her. The two faced each other 21 times with Hingis winning 11. They met in one Grand Slam final – the 1997 U.S. Open — and Hingis was victorious.
“I probably enjoyed the ones I won the most,” said Williams, who lost her singles set, 5-4. “I’m sure she would say the same. You want to forget the ones you lost. Looking back on all of the matches we played, it was a wonderful experience. It was two young women at the top of our games at the top of competition.”
Facing Darija Jurak and Anabel Medina Garrigues, Hingis and Williams struggled to find their chemistry early, falling behind, 2-1. Before the match, Williams said she wasn’t sure how the two would play together, given their contrast in styles.
Playing in matching white visors, the two hit their stride quickly, winning the next four games to win the set, 5-2.
“It was pretty awesome,” Hingis said. “She was bombing serves. I had to get used to the speed because it was coming so fast. After one or two games, we really connected.”
A part owner of the league, Williams has played team tennis every year she hasn’t been injured. She was introduced to it as a child, attending a clinic before a match that featured league founder Billie Jean King.
She struggled in her singles set against Garrigues, losing the tiebreaking game. But watching the Kastles (7-1) close out the match in the final set, Williams was all smiles as she talked with her onetime rival Hingis on the bench.
“I had a great time,” Williams said. “We played really well together.”