© Warming up: Daniela Hantuchova swaps her tennis racquet for a skipping rope in Perth yesterday before taking a rest. PICTURES: IAN FERGUSON
Weight doesn't worry Hantuchova
The West Australian
By Russell Reid
GLAMOROUS Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, in Perth for the Hyundai Hopman Cup, denies that her pencil-thin frame is responsible for her drop in world rankings.
The 56kg former No. 8 has slipped to No. 19 this year but says her slight frame has nothing to do with her tennis ability.
The 20-year-old has been criticised by countrywoman Martina Navratilova and another former world No. 1, Tracey Austin.
Navratilova said Hantuchova's frame was "ridiculous" for a tennis player while Austin said she needed to put on another 4.5kg.
But Hantuchova replies: "I have proved to everyone that by playing so many long matches and I never get tired and physically I was always fine.
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with my physical side."
Hantuchova will be out to start 2004 on a positive note when she partners Karol Kucera at the ITF mixed teams international at the Burswood Dome from Saturday to the next Saturday week.
After bursting on to the tennis stage in 2002, last year was always going to be a big test for Hantuchova.
She rocketed from a world ranking of 108 to 38 in 2001 and had improved that to No. 8 by the end of 2002.
Last summer, she lost her first two Hopman matches against Czech Republic's Daja Bedanova and Australia's Alicia Molik before recovering to beat Italy's Silvia Farina-Elia.
"I'm hoping for a better start here this year," Hantuchova said yesterday.
"I knew after having such a great year last year I would have to play better and that 2003 was going to be a hard year for me."
Hantuchova and Kucera, the winner of Hopman Cup X with Karina Habsudova in 1998, will clash with Belgium's Xavier Malisse and Kim Clijsters first up next Monday.
The tournament starts when Hungary and Canada clash on Saturday in the play-off tie for the last place in the draw.