Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Martina Hingis returns to action

AP , GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA

Former world No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switerland battles Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela at the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championship on the Gold Coast yesterday. Hingis defeated Vento-Kabchi 6-2, 6-1.

PHOTO: AP

Martina Hingis made a successful return to professional tennis competition yesterday after a three-year absence, beating Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela 6-2, 6-1 at the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships.

The 25-year-old Hingis, winner of five Grand Slam singles titles, made a nervous start when both players exchanged service breaks. But the former world No. 1 from Switzerland, showing no signs of an extended layoff due to chronic foot injuries, outplayed her opponent for the rest of the match.

Tournament spokesman Eloise Tyson said Hingis appeared to be free from injury at the end of the match.

Hingis also plans to play in next week's Sydney International on a wild card and the Australian Open at Melbourne beginning Jan. 16, a tournament she has won three times.

It was Hingis' first tour match since a loss to Elena Dementieva in Filderstadt, Germany, in October 2002.

Hingis will take on seventh-seeded Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic in the second round.

Peter Wessels beat former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina 6-2, 7-6 (5) yesterday to give the Netherlands a 2-0 winning lead in its mixed teams match.

Earlier, Michaella Krajicek gave the Netherlands, which had to qualify for the tournament by beating China last Friday, a 1-0 lead with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Gisela Dulko.

In mixed doubles, Dulko and Gaudio beat Krajicek and Wessels 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 -- the last set in a match tiebreaker -- to make the final score 2-1 for the Netherlands.

Wessels said he thought Gaudio might be suffering from the holiday layoff.

"A lot of players are a little bit rusty in the beginning of the year," Wessels said. "You saw that with Gaston, who wasn't playing his best tennis.

Dulko, ranked 26th, was expected to give Argentina a strong start, but the 16-year-old Krajicek, younger sister of former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, turned on a power game to overwhelm Dulko.

Sweden played Serbia-Montenegro in a match later yesterday.

On Tuesday, Russia plays its first match against the US, 1-0, while Australia, 0-1, plays the Netherlands.

Russia, the US, Sweden and Serbia and Montenegro play in Group A while Argentina, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands are in Group B. The group winners play in the final on Friday.

Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia beat Greece's Eleni Daniilidou 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in a match between former champions at the US$145,000 (122,500 euro) ASB Women's Classic at Stanley Street.

Srebotnik, the defending champion and fifth seed, overcame a swirling wind to force 2003 and 2004 champion Daniilidou out in the tournament's first round for the second straight year.

Only three main draw singles matches were completed Monday before tournament organizers canceled play for the day because of high winds.

Among matches held over until Tuesday was former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic's match with Julia Schruff. The Australian-based Dokic was granted a wild card into the main draw after targeting the Auckland tournament as a key buildup to the Australian Open.

Srebotnik took almost three hours to fight her way past Daniilidou as both players struggled to cope with the conditions.

"I didn't want to be on the court so long," Srebotnik said. "I was hoping I would have an easier match, I mean a shorter one.

"Conditions were very difficult and I'm just happy to get through. The wind was really swirling around and it was difficult to play at both ends of the court."

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