Australian tennis officials are increasingly hopeful that Martina Hingis will launch her comeback on the Gold Coast in less than a fortnight, and will decide to join Maria Sharapova at the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships at Royal Pines Resort.
Wildcards are being held for Hingis in Sydney from January 8 and at the Australian Open, so the main question has been over the venue for Hingis' first appearance since a one-off return in Thailand in February.
Gold Coast officials, including tournament director Liz Smylie, have been in regular touch with Hingis' management since she announced she was coming out of retirement. While nothing is yet confirmed, the odds are believed to be improving. "Certainly, Liz is going to make sure that Martina is aware of every good reason to play the Gold Coast," Tennis Australia's events manager Peter Johnston said last night.
The WTA Tour is expected to grant Hingis' requests for gold status exemption, which would give the three-time Australian champion and former No. 1 unlimited wildcards in 2006. As well as the Gold Coast, she is also being wooed by a lucrative exhibition in Hong Kong and a rival tour event in Auckland the same week.