Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Martina Hingis gets tough first draw

AP , SYDNEY

Sania Mirza of India returns during a semifinal match against Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic at the Champions Challenge tennis exhibition tournament in Hong Kong on Friday. Vaidisova won 7-6, 6-3.

PHOTO: AP

Martina Hingis drew French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne yesterday for a first-round match in the Sydney International, the Swiss star's biggest test in her comeback attempt from chronic foot problems.

Hingis, sidelined for three years, is using the Sydney tournament as her final tuneup for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne. She won the Australian Open three consecutive years from 1997 to 1999.

The fifth-seeded Henin-Hardenne, the 2004 Australian Open winner, is coming off a hamstring problem that derailed her last season after her win at Roland Garros.

The 25-year-old Hingis won three matches in the Australian women's hardcourt championships before falling to Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals Friday.

The top four seeds -- No. 1 Kim Clijsters, No. 2 Amelsie Mauresmo, No. 3 Patty Schnyder and No. 4 Nadia Petrova -- received first-round byes. Australian star Lleyton Hewitt, a four-time Sydney winner, is the top seed in the men's event.

Also Saturday, former US Open and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis received a wild-card berth into the Australian Open. The 29-year-old Philippoussis reached the second round of the Adelaide International this week.

On Saturday in Gold Coast, Czech left-hander Lucie Safarova won her third WTA Tour title, beating Pennetta 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian women's hardcourt.

The 18-year-old Safarova beat three seeded players en route to the title -- two-time Gold Coast winner Ai Sugiyama of Japan, defending champion and No. 7 Schnyder and third-seeded Dinara Safina of Russia.

"The tennis now is about power and it's very fast," Safarova said. "I always play like that. I never wanted to just run and put the balls back."

In Auckland, New Zealand, France's Marion Bartoli won her first WTA singles title Saturday, beating Russia's Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-2 in the ASB Women's Classic.

"It feels awesome," Bartoli said. "When I came here from Geneva after 24 hours of flying I was so tired I felt it would be hard to put one foot in front of the other."

Also Saturday in the Adelaide International semifinals, France's Florent Serra beat second-seeded Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3, and Belgium's Xavier Malisse defeated sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-0.

On Friday in Doha, Qatar, defending champion Roger Federer beat Germany's Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Qatar Open.

The top-ranked Swiss player will face former French junior star Gael Monfils, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Italy's Filippo Volandri.

"Obviously, he's one of the rising players and will be fired up for the big occasion," Federer said.

Monfils won his first ATP Tour title in Poland in August.

"Roger is such a great player and I can't say how excited I am to be playing the final against him," Monfils said.

On Friday in Perth, Australia, Lisa Raymond and Taylor Dent won the deciding mixed doubles against the Netherlands to give the US the Hopman Cup title.

Raymond and Dent beat Michaella Krajicek and Peter Wessels 4-6, 6-2 and 10-7 in the match tiebreaker. In singles, Krajicek beat Raymond 6-4, 7-6 (4), and Dent evened the match with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Wessels.

In Madras, India, Belguim's Kristof Vliegen upset fourth-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand 6-1, 6-2 on Friday to reach the Chennai Open semifinals.

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