Martina Hingis hopes to make her return to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open next month. Hingis, who announced earlier this week she was coming out of retirement after three years out of the game, is considering beginning her comeback at Australian Open warmup tournaments in Hong Kong or Gold Coast, Australia.
The Hong Kong exhibition and Gold Coast tournament are scheduled for Jan. 2-9. The Australian Open _ the first Grand Slam event of 2006 _ is Jan. 16-29. "That would be the goal at the moment, to be able to participate at that level," said Hingis, who won the last of her three straight Australian Open titles in 1999.
Australian Open director Paul McNamee said this week he planned to hand Hingis a wild card. Hingis has dropped out of the WTA rankings and needs wild card invitations to play. Her manager, Mario Widmar, said she will decide in the next eight days where to play her first event.
Hingis, who retired in 2002 after battling foot, heel and ankle problems, said she was willing to "take the risk" of getting more injuries.
Hingis' doctor said she would be closely monitored to make sure her previous battles with foot injuries did not reappear. Dr. Heinz Buehlmann said Hingis was in good health and had overcome her ankle injuries, but her heel problems remained an issue.
Hingis made a brief comeback in February, losing in the first round of the Volvo Women's Open in Thailand. Her previous match was at Filderstadt in October 2002, after which she withdrew from all remaining tournaments.
Hingis won 40 singles titles _ five Grand Slams _ and 36 doubles titles on the WTA Tour. She was only 16 1/2 when she took over the top ranking in March 1997. She spent 209 of the next 247 weeks in the top spot.
Hingis made her debut on the WTA Tour on Oct. 4, 1994, four days after her 14th birthday. In 1997, she won three of the four majors and missed the Grand Slam by losing the French Open final to Iva Majoli. In 1998, Hingis won all four doubles titles at the majors. She also is one of only five women to be ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles at the same time. A.M.