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Seventh time lucky for Hingis?

Can Hingis end her French Open jinx in 2001? Keystone Archive

Swiss tennis star Martina Hingis will be hoping to make it seventh time lucky as she begins her campaign to win the French Open. The tournament, which gets underway in Paris on Monday, is the only Grand Slam title still to elude the world number one.

Hingis says that she is in a confident mood ahead of her seventh appearance at Roland Garros, claiming that she has “a better chance than ever” to win the event.

The reasons for her optimism are not easy to fathom, though. Hingis has not won a Grand Slam tournament since the 1999 Australian Open and has not won a singles tournament of any kind since her triumph in Dubai three months ago.

Just as worryingly for her fans, the 20-year-old superstar is coming to Paris without a single win on clay for the first time since 1996.

As she bids to put her former disappointments in the French capital behind her, Hingis will also be hoping to banish the memories of 1999, when she lost both the final (to Steffi Graf) and the sympathies of the crowd following a series of protests and even tantrums.

What is often overlooked, however, are the good memories that Hingis can also draw on. Twice a junior champion at Roland Garros (in 1993 and 1994), she has also enjoyed more recent success by winning last year’s doubles competition alongside Mary Pierce.

With Pierce, Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport all forced by injury to withdraw from this year’s event, Hingis will also be the player with the most consistent record at the French Open.

Having reached two finals (losing to Iva Majoli two years before the Graf defeat) and two semi-finals in the last four years, Hingis has done far better at the tournament than her strongest rivals this year – Venus Williams, Amélie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati have each made it into the French semi-finals on just one occasion.

Hingis’s desire to finally lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup has also persuaded her to resolve her professional differences with mother Melanie Molitor. “I don’t know if it’s possible to change much within four days, but we’ve given it a go,” said Molitor after last week’s reunion.

Of the other six Swiss players taking part in Paris, Roger Federer appears to have the best chance of doing well, but even he admits that he is a rank outsider for the men’s title.

“I want to make it into the last 16 at least,” Federer said. “But Wimbledon or the US Open are more realistic aims for me.”

Hingis and Federer both begin their campaigns on Tuesday, Hingis against Spain’s Gala Leon Garcia and Federer against Italy’s Stafano Galvani.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR