Hingis in search of Grand Slam win

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The Independent Online
Martina Hingis, boosted by her victory at the Sydney International on Saturday, heads into the Australian Open in Melbourne with a confidence that belies her tender years.

Monica Seles, at 17 years one month at the 1991 event, is the youngest Australian Open women's champion, but the 16-year-old Hingis believes she has a chance of winning and is now more at ease with the high-pressure atmosphere of Grand Slam tournaments.

"I feel much more comfortable," she said after beating Jennifer Capriati 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 to win her third WTA Tour tournament. "I always like to play in Australia. I think I have a pretty good draw," added the fourth seed, who opens against Barbara Rittner, of Germany. "I would like to win a Grand Slam tournament; that's my big dream for this year. I think I have a good chance."

Hingis is expected to move to No 4 in the world rankings after her Sydney win. She reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the 1996 Australian Open and then beat the world No 1 Steffi Graf on her way to the final at the Italian Open. She also reached the US Open semi-finals in August.

Hingis won her first career singles title at Filderstadt, Germany, in October, and a month later trounced Seles 6-2, 6-0 to win the title at Oakland, California. She was also runner-up to Graf at the WTA Tour Championships in New York, losing in five sets.

Graf has already said she expects Hingis to succeed her on top of the world rankings. Hingis believes she can get better over the next two weeks. "I'm not playing at the top of my game," she said. "I've still got a couple of things to improve."

Hingis, at 16 years four months, will be attempting to become the youngest women's Grand Slam singles winner since Lottie Dod won Wimbledon in 1887, aged 15 years 10 months. Seles, absent from Melbourne with a broken finger, won the 1990 French Open at 16 years six months.

Against Capriati, Hingis appeared in control when she led 6-1, 4-1 before the American fought her way back to claim the second set. Capriati held three break points that would have given her a 2-0 lead in the final set. Undaunted, Hingis rescued the game and went on to win on her fourth match point.

"I started to play a little smarter. I just tried to move her around," Hingis said. "It was the third set and she's probably still not used to how to deal with these things - for me it's now easier to handle all these things but she played a great match today."