Hingis and Kournikova advance in Hamburg

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The Independent Online

Top-seeded Martina Hingis, playing her first match in a month, swept past Sylvia Plaschke in straight sets today to roll into the quarter-finals of the $535,000 Betty Barclay Cup in Hamburg, Germany.

Hingis shook off some early signs of rustiness to beat the Austrian 6-4, 6-1. Hingis trailed 4-3 in the opening set before pulling her game together.

The Swiss star had not played since beating Lindsay Davenport in the final of the Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Davenport still gained the No 1 ranking later in April, but Hingis could recapture the spot by the end of this week in Hamburg.

Hingis, who won the Hamburg tournament in 1998, was the first of the top seeded players to go into action on the red clay of the Rothenbaum club.

The top four seeds had byes into the second round. No 2 Venus Williams, the defending champion, opens her campaign on Thursday against Irina Spirlea.

Anna Kournikova won in straight sets and Anke Huber needed three sets to advance to the second round.

The sixth-seeded Kournikova, an 18-year-old Russian, cruised past Anna Smashnova of Israel 6-3, 6-2.

Huber, the seventh-seeded German who is seeking to win her second tournament this year after triumphing in Estoril, Portugal two weeks ago, downed Denisa Chladkova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

"I lost my concentration in the second set, and I am glad she missed a few shots in the third," Huber said.

Leading 4-3 in the second, Huber failed to convert three break points and went on to drop her own serve to give Chladkova a 5-4 lead.

The Czech took the second set but Huber rallied quickly in the third, opening a decisive 2-0 lead and breezing through the rest of the match.

Before Estoril, Huber had not won a tournament since 1996. Last weekend, she helped Germany retain a place in the World Group of the Fed Cup by winning five of six matches.

"It's been good for my confidence," she said.

Barbara Schett of Austria, seeded fifth, had to retire in the second set of her first-round match against Tatiana Panova of Russia because of a viral infection. Panova was leading 6-3, 1-0 when Schett quit.

Magui Serna of Spain, a "lucky loser" from the qualifying round, upset Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in a battle that ended in a thrilling tiebreaker, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7). Schnyder wasted five match points in the tiebreaker.

Results from the $535,000 Betty Barclay Cup WTA tournament (seedings in parentheses):


First Round

(6) Anna Kournikova (Rus) def. Anna Smashnova (Isr) 6-3, 6-2. Sarah Pitkowski (Fr) def. Amanda Hopmans (Neth) 6-0, 7-5. Andrea Glass (Ger) def. Anne Kremer (Lux) 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. (7) Anke Huber (Ger) def. Denisa Chladkova (Cz Rep) 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. Sabine Appelmans (Bel) def. Mariana Diazoliva (Arg) 6-3, 7-6 (6). Lubomira Bacheva (Bul) def. Pavlina Nola (Bul) 6-3, 6-3. Tatiana Panova (Rus) def. (5) Barbara Schett (Aut) 6-3, 1-0, ret. Magui Serna (Sp) def. Patty Schnyder (Swit) 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7).

Second Round

(1) Martina Hingis (Swit) def. Sylvia Plischke (Aut) 6-4, 6-1.