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Hingis returns to Zurich, wins first-round match

10/16/2006 - Tennis

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Fifth-seeded Martina Hingis began her
bid for a second Zurich Open title with a 6-0, 7-5 victory over
Anna-Lena Groenefeld in Monday's first round.

It was Hingis' first match on home soil and her first appearance
at the tournament in six years.

"I'm returning defending champion," Hingis joked. "There were
a lot of people that I know and friends who came to see the match.
It's always special to play in front of a home crowd."

The 26-year-old Swiss player reached the Zurich final in 1996
and '99 and won in 2000, but has been absent since. She was injured
in 2001 and '02, and retired in early '03.

In the only other first-round match, Slovenia's Katarina
Srebotnik won 6-3, 7-5, handing France's Mary Pierce her fourth
straight defeat since the U.S. Open.

Hingis wrapped up the first set in 21 minutes. But trailing 3-0
in the second set, the hard-hitting Groenefeld raised her play and
swept the next three games. Then, on serve at 5-4, Hingis
squandered two match points.

But the former top-ranked player broke Groenefeld in the 12th
game and won with a match point to spare.

"I don't think she gave it away [in the first set]. I made her
give it to me," Hingis said.

Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia was scheduled to face Mary Pierce
later, and Anna Chakvetadze, who beat Nadia Petrova to win the
Kremlin Cup last weekend, withdrew from the event. Tournament
organizers said they had not yet received an explanation for the
Russian's withdrawal Monday.

Hingis, who still needs to secure a berth for the season-ending
WTA Championship next month, is seeking her third WTA title since
returning from a three-year retirement.

Zurich is the last big event before the WTA Championship in
Madrid, Spain. Only the top eight players in the WTA race rankings
qualify for the tournament, and Hingis is currently in eighth
place.

The top three seeds in Zurich -- Amelie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova
and Svetlana Kuznetsova -- already have qualified, but fourth-seeded
Elena Dementieva, sixth-seeded Patty Schnyder and Nicole Vaidisova
are still vying for spots.