The two divorced a year later. By age six Martina had won 80 official matches. At seven, competing in a tournament for nine-year-olds, she played lefthanded because she had broken some fingers on her right hand. When Martina was eight, Melanie married a traveling Swiss computer salesman, Andreas Zogg, and the family moved to Trubbach, Switzerland, and out of Karol's life. Only a decade later did Molitor realize that Muna had stayed with his daughter all along. "Her character and mentality are exactly like her father's: She does the minimum," Molitor says of Martina. "She doesn't have an iron will."
This is a classic Czech trait, according to Molitor and Widmer, who began living together in 1997. It's the same live-for-today quality that inspired Czech writer Milan Kundera to plumb his nation's psyche under titles such as The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Hingis is Czech through and through, Molitor insists. "She likes the moment," Molitor says. "When she's on the court, with a match in her hand, she doesn't think how it will be in 10 minutes or a half hour. She doesn't care. She's having fun. It's just a game for her."
Such a lack of urgency "drives me crazy," Molitor continues, "but I have to live with it because we are mother and daughter. If I were just a coach, I would've quit a long time ago."
Never mind that former Czechs Navratilova and Ivan Lendl, their eyes always on history, were the two biggest grinds in tennis. Whether Hingis's nature is Czech or merely her father's, she is certainly unlike any No. 1 before her or since. When someone says that talented Swiss pro Patty Schnyder, without distractions, could have achieved much more in her career, Hingis says, "Who couldn't?" That Hingis has a champion's mind is obvious, but as her losses mount and critics question her heart, it's good to remember that her open, unobsessive personality was precisely what the sport needed when she broke in. Nowadays fans may find her lightness unbearable because "the perception the public has of athletes, she can't fulfill," says Widmer, a former sports editor of the Swiss newspaper Blick. "People want athletes to win, they want to witness them fighting, and Martina is just not that type. She's not a fighter. She's a player."
But she's not just her father's child; she's her mother's, too. Speaking the truth matters to Molitor more than context or perception or feelings. Speaking the truth means cutting up her daughter's character—at times in Martina's presence. Hingis inherited that quality in spades. When, in 1994, she humiliated Kournikova 6-0, 6-0 in the U.S. Open juniors, she greeted Kournikova at the net with a huge grin and said, "Boy, that was easy."
A more diplomatic person wouldn't be so eager to state the obvious, but that wouldn't be honest, would it? The fact is, Graf was nearing the end of the line in '97, Novotna was old and slow by '99 and Richard Williams does talk too much. When, at Wimbledon in 2000, Serena Williams wondered about the distracting influence of boyfriends, Hingis responded, "I don't know if she had any experiences. How can she talk about that?" The "half a man" gaffe aside, there has always been a germ of truth in what Hingis says, but it's overshadowed by the cruel streak she calls candor. Carillo says Hingis at her playing peak was "sharklike," someone who "really enjoyed toying with people," and it's no coincidence that Hingis's on-court fade came as her off-court life grew more intriguing. She got herself a new set of toys.
Hingis hoots at her black-widow image on tour, but it's clear that she enjoys it. Just as Kournikova envies her success, Hingis envies Kournikova's glamour. Regardless, the two are a formidable doubles team; they won their second Grand Slam title at the 2002 Australian Open. "On the court she completes me," Hingis says. Off the court, though, it's clear who Hingis thinks the more daring. "Hey," she says, laughing, "Femme Fatale is on my American Express ad!"
A year ago Hingis began one of the more bizarre romances in the annals of modern celebrity when she dated Chris Calkin, the 31-year-old Miami prosecutor who locked up a man who'd been stalking her. It didn't seem strange to Hingis, though; and if it was, who cares? "You just meet somebody and find him attractive," she says. "I don't regret any relationship. It was great for my English." After 10 months the affair ended. "How do you explain it?" Hingis says. "I met somebody else."
She's not too concerned about the wreckage she leaves behind. In that way, too, Hingis is like her mother—always willing to move on. Shortly before Martina became No. 1, there were stories out of Kosice about Karol Hingis: how he lived in a drab apartment building with his mother, how he had signed away his rights to see Martina and rarely talked to her, how he drove a tiny car and made a few hundred dollars a month sweeping tennis courts, stringing rackets, fixing the occasional bus. When Martina returned to Kosice in 1997 to play Fed Cup, Karol greeted her at the airport with flowers. He attended every match and practice.
Since then, Martina says—and sources in Kosice confirm—things have improved some. She talks to her father once a week, and during tournaments he'll call her cellphone almost daily. She has a house in Roznov, and Karol drove four hours to see her when she was there last year. She wants to make it clear that she's "trying to help him" but that he wants nothing but to stay in Kosice. When she talks to him, Hingis hears exactly what her mother is talking about. She doesn't like being like him.