Hingis, in New York to promote next week's season- ending Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden, was surprised to hear yesterday that Graf had withdrawn from next month's Masters of Champions invitational exhibition tournament in Frankfurt.
Graf, who beat Hingis in five sets last year in the Chase final, had been expected to make her competitive return since having knee surgery in June.
"That's news for me," Hingis said about Graf's withdrawal. "It's not official, it's just an exhibition but you want to see how she's doing. You don't know if she's going to come back and play well. You don't know what to expect. So I guess she's going to start in January now."
Graf has been something of a phantom adversary for Hingis, who has been pestered with questions about whether her charge to No 1 was diminished by the German's absence. "Of course, I don't want to hear from everybody, `you're only the No 1 because she's not playing.' But I think I have a very good relationship to the other players and they respect me as I am. I won three Grand Slams, so there is nothing you can have against that."