Wed, Mar 01, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Hingis breezes into Qatar Open

TENNIS Although Mashona Washington managed to beat the former champ in the first game, Hingis won the next eight, finishing off the US player in 46 minutes


Former champion Martina Hingis made a successful return to Doha in breezing past Mashona Washington of the US 6-1, 6-2 in 46 minutes at the Qatar Open on Monday.

Hingis, two months into her comeback following a three-year retirement, was playing her first match in Doha since she won the inaugural final in 2001.

She was broken in the first game by Washington, then won the next eight.

"I think I played very well, except the first game," she said. "I didn't miss much after being broken. During the first set, I knew I could do anything I wanted. I played all of my shots with confidence."

In the second round she will face third-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy for a place in the quarterfinals.

Both seeds in action on Monday lost; No. 7 Elena Likhovtseva, the 2003 runner-up, fell to Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-4, and No. 8 Jelena Jankovic was beaten by Germany's Julia Schruff 6-2, 7-5.

Also, Li Na of China topped Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-4, 6-4, and Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine put out Vera Dushevina of Russia 7-6 (1), 6-1. Second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo can reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Kim Clijsters next Monday if she wins the tournament.

Andre Agassi produced vintage form to dispatch the UK's Greg Rusedski 7-6 (4), 6-0 in the opening round of the Dubai Open on Monday.

The 35-year-old American, playing only his second tournament of the season and third after his loss to Roger Federer in the final of the US Open last September, showed no obvious discomfort from the lower back strain which sidelined him for the last two weeks.

"It's good to be back on the court healthy and excited," said Agassi, who was also constrained by an ankle injury in the latter part of 2005.

"I am still not as comfortable and that will take a couple of matches, but what was important was that I was getting into good positions which means I am moving well," Agassi said.

The eight-time Grand Slam champion served well and hit some exceptional passing shots to win his ninth match in 11 clashes with Rusedski. The second set took only 21 minutes.

Rusedski's compatriot, Tim Henman, battling his own persistent injuries, advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez, the 2004 runner-up.

Also, fifth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain became the first seeded player to exit when Rainer Schuettler of Germany ended a five-match tour losing streak 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

Agassi and Rusedski hit six aces each by the time the score was 3-3, and the American received his big chance to break in the seventh game. With Rusedski nowhere in the frame, Agassi could have put his volley anywhere on the court, but hit it wide.

Once Agassi got a mini break in the tiebreaker, there was no looking back. In the second set, Rusedski won only two points off Agassi's three service games.

"Once I got the break, I got into a better rhythm in the second set. He did not serve a high percentage of first serves in and I was returning well," said Agassi.

Henman, in his 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over Lopez, showed no signs of discomfort with his back which prompted him to think of retirement at the end of last year.

On Monday he dropped to 49th in the world rankings and relinquished his position as the top-ranked Briton for the first time since 1999 to Andy Murray.

Henman wrapped up the first set easily against Lopez, ranked 11 places higher, but had to fight it out in the second set, which lasted 59 minutes.

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