Banned tennis ace Hingis joins Strictly lineup

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The Independent Culture

Former Wimbledon champion Martina Hingis, who is currently banned from tennis for cocaine abuse, was today named as one of the contestants in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.

The 29-year-old, who won five grand slam titles during her career, was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in 2008 after testing positive for the drug during the 2007 Wimbledon tournament.

After the tests, Hingis declared she was "100% innocent", but the ITF ruled against her and ordered her to repay nearly £80,000 in prize money.

Joining Hingis in the Strictly lineup are retired jockey Richard Dunwoody, former boxer Joe Calzaghe, Olympic long jumper Jade Johnson and ex-cricketer Phil Tufnell.

The 43-year-old former England and Middlesex spinner is no stranger to reality TV, having emerged as king of the jungle in the 2003 series of I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.

If he wins, he will be the third former cricketer to do so, after Mark Ramprakash and Darren Gough.

At 61, former Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham is this year's oldest contestant, but there are no obvious candidates to step into the John Sargeant role.

The political journalist dismayed the judges and delighted the public in equal measure last year with his whole-hearted but inelegant performances on the dancefloor.

A host of soap stars will battle it out in the new series: Natalie Cassidy and Ricky Groves from EastEnders, Coronation Street's Craig Kelly and Ricky Whittle from Hollyoaks.

Former Hollyoaks actress Ali Bastian, who now plays Pc Sally Armstrong in The Bill will also take part, alongside Footballers' Wives stars Laila Rouass and Zoe Lucker.

The lineup is completed by BBC Breakfast presenter Chris Hollins, police officer-turned-Crimewatch host Rav Wilding and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's estranged wife Jo.

The new series has already been plunged into an age row following the axing of choreographer Arlene Phillips, 66, as a judge, after six series.

Former principal dancer of the Royal Ballet Darcey Bussell, 40, and 30-year-old singer Alesha Dixon, who won the competition in 2007, are coming on board, while Phillips will be The One Show's Strictly expert.

Len Goodman, 65, and Bruno Tonioli, 53, will return as judges this autumn, alongside Revel Horwood in the refreshed show.

The X Factor will be shown on Saturdays and Sundays on ITV during the live stages this year, while the BBC has dropped its Sunday show in favour of an extended Saturday night programme.







Asked about the controversy, Hingis said: "It's behind me, this is a new challenge."

Hingis said she had changed and continued: "I want people to see a different side to me than the person running round the tennis court."

Speaking about the competition, she said: "Everything I do I do to win. I am very competitive."





Regular hosts Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly will guide viewers through the glamour and the glitz of the show's seventh series, and for the first two weeks, Strictly will kick off with shows on both Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday night will be ballroom night, where the first eight of the celebrity contestants and their professional partners will be put through their paces dancing either a waltz or a tango.

Saturday night will be Latin night, where things will hot up as the same couples perform a cha-cha or a rumba.

Couples dancing in the first week will be Bastian and Brian Fortuna, Bellingham and Darren Bennett, Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff, Groves and Erin Boag, Hingis and Matthew Cutler, Hollins and Ola Jordan, Johnson and Ian Waite and Wilding and Aliona Vilani.

At the end of the Saturday night performances, the judges' scores from both dances will be combined and viewers will be able to vote for the couple they want to stay in the competition.

The two couples with the fewest points when judges' and viewers' scores are combined will face each other in a dance off and the judges will decide which is safe and which is going home.

In week two, the pairings will be: Cassidy and Vincent Simone, Dunwoody and Lilia Kopylova, Kelly and Flavia Cacace, Lucker and James Jordan, Rouass and Anton Du Beke, Tufnell and Katya Virshilas, Whittle and Natalie Lowe and Wood and Brendan Cole.

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