PARIS (AP) _ Martina Hingis gave her clearest indication yet Friday that she is planning to retire from tennis because of ongoing foot problems.
``A return to competition is inconceivable, in the short term at least. That is certain,'' Hingis told the French sports newspaper L'Equipe.
The former No. 1-ranked player and owner of five Grand Slam singles titles had surgery on her right ankle in October 2001 and on her left ankle in May. She returned to the tour in August but went back to rehab in October.
Since then she has been living quietly at home in the village of Schindellegi, near Zurich, attending college to perfect her English and earn other qualifications for a future career off-court.
For relaxation she indulges in her passion of horse riding, having recently bought an 8-year-old horse as ``my after-career present.''
``There's no question of envisaging a return to the circuit,'' Hingis said.
``Stop talking about a comeback,'' she said upon being further pressed. ``You have to understand I really appreciate my new way of life ... I am 22-years-old and I have my whole life ahead of me.
``The only thing I can no longer do is to train in a way as to remain competitive.''
Hingis told Swiss media last month that she plays recreational tennis, but when she practices more seriously, pain spreads through her feet and ankles.
Hingis was just 16 years, three months old when she won the first of her three Australian Open titles in 1997, making her the youngest Grand Slam singles champion of the 20th century.
She made six straight finals at the Australian, winning the first three and losing the last three. She also won the 1997 Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, and lost the French Open final that year to Iva Majoli.
Hingis spent a total of 209 weeks at No. 1 in the WTA Tour rankings, but she has slipped to 31st after being sidelined 11 of the last 17 months.
She has won 40 singles titles and 36 doubles titles, including nine at Grand Slam tournaments, and has earned more than $18 million.
In 2001, Hingis filed a $40 million lawsuit against Italian sportswear manufacturer Sergio Tacchini, with whom she had a five-year sponsorship deal.
She claimed her shoes were defective and had caused her foot problems. Sergio Tacchini said the claims were made only so Hingis could avoid paying damages for breaching her contract with the company.
The New York State Supreme Court dismissed the suit in September because there is similar litigation pending in Milan, Italy.