July 13 (Reuters) - Martina Hingis was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, becoming one of the youngest members to be enshrined in one of the sport’s most elite clubs.
The 32-year-old from Switzerland was among a distinguished class of inductees who were formally inducted at Newport, Rhode Island.
Hingis, who was seemingly born to play tennis and succeeded in fulfilling her destiny, told the crowd she was humbled by the honour.
“Thank you, tennis. You gave me the world,” she said.
”And now I honestly am out of words, because there are no words to explain what I feel.
“You chose to give me a place here for eternity.”
Hingis became the fourth youngest player to be inducted, following Tracy Austin (30), Bjorn Borg (31) and Hana Mandlikova (32).
Born in Czechoslovakia and named after Martina Navratilova, Hingis announced her arrival on the world stage when she won the 1993 French Open junior title at just 12 years of age.
She turned professional two weeks before her 14th birthday and went on to achieve a series of youngest-ever records.
Hingis won five grand slam singles titles - the 1997, 1998 and 1999 Australian Opens, 1997 Wimbledon and 1997 U.S. Open - and held the number one ranking for 209 weeks.
She also won nine grand slam doubles titles and a mixed doubles title before injuries forced her into early retirement at the age of 22.
Hingis made a comeback four years later but retired after testing positive for cocaine. She denied using the drug but retired without fighting the ban.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame president Stan Smith said Hingis was a worthy recipient.
“Having achieved world number one status in both singles and doubles and having won an incredible 15 grand slam tournament titles, Martina Hingis is undoubtedly one of the world’s elite tennis players, and we are glad to pay tribute to her among the legends of the sport,” Smith said.
Also enshrined were 94-year-old Australian great Thelma Coyne Long, who was inducted in the master player category, and Ion Tiriac, Cliff Drysdale and Charlie Pasarell, who were inducted for their contributions to tennis.
Reporting by Julian Linden in New York, editing by Gene Cherry