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Hingis and Davenport prepare for battle

Hingis celebrates her semi-final victory

(Keystone)

Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport will renew their on-court rivalry on Sunday as the world's top two women's tennis players face each other in the final of the Swisscom Challenge.

Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport will renew their on-court rivalry on Sunday as the world's top two women's tennis players face each other in the final of the Swisscom Challenge.

Neither player had much difficulty in Saturday's semi-finals. Hingis beat Jennifer Capriati 6-3, 6-2, while Davenport enjoyed a 6-2, 6-1 win over Barbara Schett.

The match between Hingis and Capriati was close to begin with. Hingis drew first blood, breaking her opponent's serve in the fourth game to lead 3-1. But the American former child prodigy responded well, breaking Hingis in the very next game before levelling the score at 3-3.

The set was decided in a long drawn-out eighth game. After successfully defending two break points on her own serve, Capriati finally capitulated with a double fault. Serving for the set, Hingis herself then faced a break point but held on to take the opening set 6-3.

The Swiss star shone brighter in the second set, although the ease with which she won it owed more than a little to some mental lapses on Capriati's part. The American was broken three times in all, conceding two of the games in question with double faults.

After the match Hingis said she was suffering from a slight cold, and had been glad to get the semi-final over with quickly. Blaming the cold on the recent bad weather, Hingis insisted that it wouldn't affect her performance on Sunday.

"On the court I feel fine, because I can sweat the cold out. As long as I'm sweating, it's okay."

The sight of Lindsay Davenport on the other side of the net should be enough to get the Swiss player sweating on Sunday. The American is one of the few players on the tour to boast a superior record in head to head encounters with Hingis.

Looking back on her 11 victories and eight defeats against Hingis, Davenport said she was feeling confident about Sunday's match, but said that the Swiss player's home advantage could play a part.

"We've never played each other here in Switzerland," Davenport pointed out. "In fact we've rarely played each other in Europe.

"The crowd will definitely be behind her, and she'll be keen to win one of the few tournaments that she hasn't won yet. But I'll be trying just as hard not to lose to her."

For Hingis Sunday will be her third appearance in a Kloten final, following her 1996 defeat to Jana Novotna and last year's loss to Venus Williams.

While Hingis can no doubt rely on strong home support, Davenport will be able to draw on a great winning record in Switzerland. The American has never lost at Kloten, winning the singles title in both her previous visits (1996 and 1997).

Including her two successful appearances at the Lucerne clay tournament, Davenport is now unbeaten in 20 matches on Swiss soil and is showing little desire of surrendering that sequence on Sunday.

by Mark Ledsom


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