Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Hingis begins new season in style


Martina Hingis returns a forehand against Sybille Bammer during their match at the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, yesterday.


Martina Hingis began the new season in style when she demolished Austria's Sybille Bammer 6-0, 6-2 in the opening round of the Australian Women's Hardcourt tennis championships at the Royal Pines Resort in Gold Coast, Australia, yesterday.

The 26-year-old top seed, who made her comeback at this tournament 12 months ago after three years away from the sport, said she felt far more relaxed this time around and it showed in the result.

"This was different -- totally different [from last year]," she said. "Now I'm No. 7 in the world, I won a couple of tournaments last year and played some great matches against top players, so I know I can handle myself out there."

"Last year I didn't know. I found out after a few rounds, but it definitely took me a while to get used to the nerves about getting back on court," she said.

Critics of the Swiss Miss had labeled her comeback ill-advised, saying the game had moved on in her time away and she wouldn't be able to match it with the new generation of power hitters.

She proved them wrong last year, winning WTA titles in Rome and Kolkata, India, and turning in good performances in all four Grand Slams, taking her world ranking from a nominal 9,999 at the start of the year to No. 7 heading into this year.

She needed just 60 minutes to overcome the challenge of the tall left-hander from Linz, losing just two games along the way.

Hingis showed all her court craft and shot-making ability to see off the powerful ball-striking of her Austrian opponent.

She was helped by a raft of unforced errors from the world No. 51, who appeared nervous playing Hingis on center court.

Hingis said she didn't allow Bammer to play her natural game and put her under enormous pressure by breaking her first two service games.

"She had to take higher risks because I wasn't missing," Hingis said. "That's what you want to get out of the first match -- you want to make sure you don't make too many unforced errors and get your rhythm and that's why I did well today."

Hingis prepared for the heat of the Australian summer by going skiing.

"It's different but it's still pushing your body to the limit and you have a hard time breathing, and you come here -- the first day it was raining -- so you just ease yourself into the Australian weather," she said.

The 26-year-old Hingis will now play the winner of the clash between former world No. 14 Elena Bovina from Russia and Australian veteran Nicole Pratt, and is heading for a likely final against either Russian Dinara Safina, the second seed, or third seeded Serbian Ana Ivanovic.

Ivanovic takes on Italian qualifier Roberta Vinci today.

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