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Illegal-ID flap engulfs tennis prodigy Hingis

Illegal-ID flap engulfs tennis prodigy Hingis

Posted: August 29, 1996

By Bouc, Frantisek

Martina Hingis, the Czechoslovak-born tennis wunderkind, has recorded her first off-court scandal. The 15-year-old player, a Swiss citizen, caused a storm in the Czech tennis community after she illegally obtained a Czech identity card to claim Czech citizenship. The case is being investigated by the Czech police.

In June, the month before she became the youngest Wimbledon champion of all time, winning the women's doubles competition with Czech Helena Sukova, Hingis received a Czech identity card and declared herself a Czech citizen to the country's tennis authorities. Later in June, she joined the Prost¸jov tennis club and boosted its position in the country's Elite League.

"I do have [a Czech] ID," Hingis said with a laugh during the Elite League contest. "I even take it with me on the courts."

What Hingis didn't realize is that a Czech ID holder can have only one citizenship.

Hingis insists on retaining her Swiss citizenship, which disqualifies her from being a Czech citizen.

After a tight loss to Prost¸jov in the final league match in June, TK P?¤erov protested that its opponent had more than the single foreign player that is allowed to play on each team. In addition to Hingis, P?¤erov officials pointed out, the Prost¸jov squad included Spaniard Javier Sanchez.

Hingis, whose family defected from Czechoslovakia in 1987, has often visited her homeland since 1989.

She attracted the attention of several tennis teams interested in obtaining her services before settling with TK Prost¸jov.

Early this June, the team applied at the police office in Prost¸jov for an identity card for the young player.

Even though the Czech Foreign Ministry had not awarded Czech citizenship to Hingis, the card was issued.

"I would like to believe that the whole campaign is only a matter of simple faulty infor-mation. ... Otherwise, it would be irresponsible of [Prost¸jov] officials to involve Hingis in this scandal," the Czech Tennis Association's FrantiË?ek Zlesak said.

The association has decided that a new Elite League final will be played in September. In the final, however, Prost¸jov will be replaced by Olymp Praha, which lost to Prost¸jov in the semifinals.

"The whole case is ridiculous," lamented Prost¸jov coach Jaroslav Navratil.

"The [Czech] league needs a player of Hingis' caliber in order to keep some attractiveness," Navratil added, "but a player of such caliber doesn't need such scandals."

Neither Hingis nor her mother, Melanie, would comment on the identity-card issue.

"I have nothing to say; I don't know Czech law," Melanie Hingis said.

By Bouc, Frantisek

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