Hingis finds her match
Friday Dec 29 16:12 AEDT
When it comes to the love life of tennis star Martina Hingis, Australians must be more nosey than her Swiss compatriots.
The former world No.1 expected to be quizzed about her recent engagement to Czech player Radek Stepanek at a press conference on the Gold Coast on Friday but the level of interest in Australia has surprised her.
Stepanek proposed to Czech-born Hingis in Prague last month.
"I'm happy," said Hingis, the top seed in the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships at Royal Pines starting on Sunday.
"I was surprised when it (her diamond ring) was spotted right away because in Switzerland I've been walking around for a month and no-one's said anything.
"I guess people here pay more attention to things."
Crowd favourite Hingis is big news wherever she goes, especially in Melbourne where she's won three of her five grand slams.
In late 2005 she created a media frenzy on the Gold Coast where she made her comeback to elite tennis after a three-and-a-half year break due to debilitating foot injuries.
Her preparation for next month's Australian Open will be far more low key on this occasion but the world No.7 will still attract the headlines.
"I was really nervous starting my first match here," she recalled about her first visit to the Gold Coast.
"This time I don't think I will be as nervous.
"It's a total different occasion. If someone had told me I'd be back in the top ten or seven in the world I'd take it and sign the contract right away."
Hingis, 26, will face some stiff opposition on the Gold Coast from world No.29 Samantha Stosur - Australia's highest-ranked women's player - and Serbian teenager Ana Ivanovic, who defeated Hingis in a tier-one final at the Canadian Open in August.
Stosur will need to consistently beat players like Hingis to achieve her stated aim of breaking into the world top 20.
"She always seem to start off so well here in Australia and her game is better than she shows off later on in the year," Hingis said about Stosur, the world's top-ranked doubles player.
"She's always been a very dangerous player. I saw her working with (new coach) Nicole Bradtke so maybe they can do some special things."
Hingis - who won titles at Rome and Kolkata, India, this year - refused to speculate on her Australian Open chances.
"That's something I don't want to push too far because there are many other girls out there who are several steps ahead of me," said Hingis, who rated making the Australian and French Open quarter-finals as her 2006 highlights.
"I don't think I'm in a position to be saying that I'm going to win a grand slam so I won't do that."
Hingis said she felt more "self-assured and confident" following her meteoric rise back up the world rankings in 2006.