Martina Hingis has made a successful return to competitive tennis at the Australian women's hardcourt championships after a three-year absence.This content was published on January 2, 2006 - 12:04
The 25-year-old Swiss, the former world number one and winner of five Grand Slam singles titles, beat Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela 6-2, 6-1 on Monday.
Hingis made a nervous start when both players exchanged service breaks. But the former world number one, showing no signs of an extended layoff due to chronic foot injuries, outplayed her opponent for the rest of the match.
"I was a little nervous," Hingis told the sold-out stadium at the Royal Pines resort on the Australian Gold Coast after the match. "I'd like to thank my family and friends for supporting me."
Hingis plans to take part in the upcoming Sydney International on a wild card and the Australian Open in Melbourne beginning on January 16, a tournament she has won three times.
"Eight out of ten"
She later said she played well. "Under the circumstances in the heat and not having played for three years, I'd say an eight (out of ten), other times even better," she added.
"I don't know what else I should have done today better than what I did. The score says it all."
Asked whether she was concerned after her nervous start, Hingis said: "Not really. I knew I could play better than that.
"It was just a matter of time and getting the first point and the first game. After that I started breathing."
Hingis's serve has improved and her groundstrokes appear considerably harder than when she retired at the age of 22 in 2002. She had one ace on Monday.
"Just wait until the next matches, I'll be even better," she said.
"You have to have a high percentage of first serves otherwise these girls today are going to kill you. They're very aggressive and they attack right away."
The Swiss player admitted the win had given her a confidence boost.
"It's big," she said. "I get another opportunity to play another match and that feels great already. All these expectations I've put on myself, it's gone right now for this moment."
The Swiss player advanced to the quarter-finals on Wednesday after defeating seventh-seeded Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
Hingis now goes on to play Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain.
swissinfo with agencies
The Gold Coast tournament ends on Saturday.
Total prize money is $175,000 (SFr230,000).
The titleholder is Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, who is the top seed at the tournament and world number seven.
Schnyder beat France's Virginie Razzano in the first round, and Angela Haynes of the United States in the second round.
Hingis has won 40 singles titles, five Grand Slams and 36 doubles titles on the Women's Tennis Association tour, amassing more than $18 million in prize money.
She was only 16 when she took over the top ranking in March 1997 and spent most of the next five years in the top spot.
She withdrew from competitive tennis in October 2002 after battling with foot injuries.
She made an abortive comeback attempt at an event in Thailand last February, losing to Germany's Marlene Weingartner.
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