Hingis hammers Ivanovic to take third title since return

Martina Hingis is finding that winning the second time around is sweeter than ever.

Second-seeded Hingis won her record fifth Pan Pacific Open title yesterday, beating Serbia's Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-2.

Hingis, currently sixth in the WTA rankings, returned to competitive tennis in 2006 after a three-year injury layoff. Sunday's win was her first Tier I singles title since winning at Rome in May of last year.

"It's twice as sweet to win the second time around," said Hingis. "It used to be so normal back in '97 and '98. This time around I feel like I really deserve it, I feel more proud to win now and it's more special."

Hingis, also the winner here in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002, broke a tie with Lindsay Davenport for the most titles in the event.

Fifth-seeded Ivanovic, 19, advanced to the final on Saturday when top-ranked Maria Sharapova was forced to retire during their semifinal match because of a hamstring injury.

It was only the second meeting between the two players. Ivanovic beat Hingis 6-2, 6-3 in Montreal last year.

Hingis held serve to win the first set, and raced to a 4-0 lead in the second.

She said the fast surface in Tokyo suits her game.

"I think the main thing here is the surface," said Hingis. "It's such a fast surface that it can keep you in the game longer."

After being tied 4-4 in the first set, Hingis made 14 straight points to take control of the set and the match.

Ivanovic double-faulted three times in the first game of the second set and was never able to recover.

"I played really well in the beginning of the match," said Ivanovic. "Then at 4-4 my legs started to feel heavy and I couldn't move. I started to play better near the end of the second set but by then it was too late."

Sunday's win was Hingis' 43rd tour singles title. She said being in shape allows her to compete with the younger players on the tour.

"You have to be strong if you want to survive in today's tennis," said the 26-year-old Hingis. "I knew coming back that I needed to get better physically and I feel I have made a lot of improvement."

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