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Hingis Will Return in 2006

With injuries behind her, former No. 1 women's tennis player announces comeback.

November 30, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

After dabbling in professional tennis in 2005, playing one minor tournament and about a month of World Team Tennis, Martina Hingis, once top-ranked in the world, said Tuesday she would return to the WTA Tour in 2006.

Hingis, 25, has essentially been off the tour since late 2002, taking an indefinite break from the sport because of ankle problems and subsequent surgeries. She never announced her retirement but has not played in a Grand Slam event since losing in the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 2002.

"I was never happy that my injuries cut my career short and ultimately forced my decision to step away from tennis," Hingis said in a statement released by her management company, Octagon. "I have enjoyed my time away from the court, a period that has allowed me to experience a different side of life.

"However, I miss the game and the challenge of competing at the highest level of tennis, and I want to gauge whether I can stay healthy and compete against today's top players."

It is unclear where she will play her first event next year, but Phil de Picciotto, Octagon president, said she was "looking forward to the challenge of playing a competitive schedule of events."

In 1997, the Swiss star became the youngest player to reach No. 1, attaining the top spot at 16 years 6 months. That same year, she came within one match of a calendar Grand Slam, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and losing in the final of the French Open. She had won five Grand Slam singles titles when she was 18.

The French Open title is the only major event missing on her resume. Hingis lost twice in the final and reached the semifinals three other times.

She won her last Grand Slam title in 1999 at the Australian Open, after that becoming increasingly frustrated by the powerful baseline games of Serena and Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport.

Hindered by a weak serve, her crafty tactics weren't enough to blunt the hard-hitting of her opponents. Hingis had not completely disappeared from the tennis scene, working in the broadcast booth and appearing at promotional events for Adidas. She tried a comeback on the WTA Tour last year but it was short-lived, as she lost her first match to Marlene Weingartner of Germany in three sets at the Thailand Open in February.

She will return to a different-looking tour.

The Williams sisters have become part-time players and Davenport is not scheduling beyond March. Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati have been long-term absentees because of injuries.

Hingis' comeback, therefore, could provide a jolt of energy to the tour, which was hit hard this year by withdrawals.

"Martina Hingis is one of the game's great champions and unique personalities," WTA Chief Executive Officer Larry Scott said in a statement. "For fans of women's tennis, Martina's return will add another level of excitement to the sport and enhance the incredible rivalries and roster of big-name stars. Her passion for the game has never wavered and we look forward to her return."

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Hingis highlights

Some noteworthy events in the career of Martina Hingis:

* Grand Slam titles (5): Australian Open ('97, '98, '99), Wimbledon ('97), U.S. Open ('97)

* Career titles: 40 (Defeated Monica Seles in 2002 in Tokyo for her 40th)

* In 2001, surpassed Monica Seles' record of 178 weeks ranked No. 1 in singles

* In 1997, became the youngest player to reach No. 1 (16 years 6 months)

Los Angeles Times and ESPN.com

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