Tennis: Hingis too steady for Mauresmo

MARTINA HINGIS will mark her 19th birthday today $300,000 (pounds 190,000) richer after defeating Amelie Mauresmo, 7-6, 6-2, in the opening round of the $6.7m Compaq Grand Slam Cup.

One third of Hingis's prize will take the form of a $100,000 bonus for winning the Australian Open, in which she defeated Mauresmo in the final after causing a stir by calling the powerful Frenchwoman "half a man".

Mauresmo's strength played a part in her downfall last night, her over- hitting contributing to 39 unforced errors, eight of them double-faults. Hingis, relying on her steadier game, still committed 22 errors, but she managed to break serve six times after losing the opening two games of the match. She swept through the tie-break, 7-1.

Hingis retired because of cramp at 5-5 in the final set of the semi-finals last year, a set in which she led her Swiss compatriot, Patty Schnyder, 5-1. Schynder lost in the final to the American Venus Williams, who won $800,000.

The burning question of the week - will Steffi Graf be in the audience cheering for Andre Agassi? - may be answered this afternoon, when the French Open and United States Open champion plays his opening match against Tommy Haas.

Agassi's burgeoning romance with Graf has captivated the German media to the extent that the conservative German may shy away, given the history of her relationship with the racy end of the newspaper market, the "Boulevards". Agassi has been quoted as saying that he would like Graf to have his child. Boris Becker, who says Agassi has been trying to date Graf for years, is apparently delighted at the prospect. "Tennis needs glamour," he said. "I can't wait to see Steffi's baby."

Graf spent the early part of the week in Vienna, visiting her injured former doubles partner, Ines Gorrochategui, at a rehabilitation clinic. Graf is due in Cologne on Saturday, the day of the Grand Slam Cup semi- finals, to receive a television award. Next week, when Agassi is scheduled to play in Basle, Graf will visit Cape Town as part of her African townships project.

Agassi is staying at the Bayerischer Hof, which boasts Europe's largest hotel suite, confirmed in the Guinness Book of Records: 584.55 square metres, comprising seven adjoining suites. The fourth-floor sanctuary for celebrities (Michael Jackson and Luciano Pavarotti are among those who have stayed there), costs DM 7,100 (pounds 2,400) per night, breakfast included.

Becker, who came to the Olympic Hall yesterday to announce that he had become a shareholder and partner in Volkl, the Austrian racket company, praised Haas's match-winning display in Germany's Davis Cup tie against Romania in Bucharest last weekend.

Haas continued to impress, winning his first-round match against Dominik Hrbaty, of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-2, after 55 minutes. Haas played Agassi twice in 1998, losing to the American on a hard court in Scottsdale, but defeating him in four sets in the second round at Wimbledon.

"I'm sure the people would like to see Steffi here," Haas said. "It would be good for me if Andre couldn't concentrate on the match 100 per cent."

Concentration was the key yesterday when Nicolas Lapentti, of Ecuador, and the Brazilian Fernando Meligeni played the longest set in the 10 years of the Grand Slam Cup. Lapentti, who had his first match point serving at 5-4 in the third set, eventually won, 6-4, 2-6, 16-14, after two hours and 58 minutes. The final set took one hour and 47 minutes.

COMPAQ GRAND-SLAM CUP (Munich) Men's quarter-final line-up: A Agassi (US) v T Haas (Ger); T Enqvist (Swe) v N Lapentti (Ec); R Krajicek (Neth) v A Medvedev (Ukr); G Rusedski (GB) v Y Kafelnikov (Ukr). Rusedski and Kafelnikov are scheduled to play tomorrow.

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