Hingis shows little rust, advances to quarterfinals

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Martina Hingis raises her arms in the air as she celebrates her fourth-round win over Samantha Stosur at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday.

The Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia - Martina Hingis' comeback has gone so smoothly that she's in the Australian Open quarterfinals following three-year layoff.
Back on the tour for just three weeks, the three-time Australian Open champion advanced Monday with a 6-1, 7-6 (8) victory over Samantha Stosur 6-1, 7-6 (8) and will face second-seeded Kim Clijsters.
Hingis needed four match points to beat Stosur. The five-time Grand Slam winner, who dropped off the tour because of ankle, heel and foot injuries, returned to competitive tennis Jan. 2 and hasn't lost a set at this tournament.
"I started off very well, I knew that I had to be right there from the start - we both probably were very nervous," Hingis said. "I knew I couldn't give her any momentum."
On the men's side, top-ranked Roger Federer overcame an uncharacteristic 58 errors in his 6-4, 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 fourth-round win over Tommy Haas.
"I was really trying to just break his momentum. Tommy was making it difficult for me to play," Federer said. "To be honest, I like to be pushed like this."
Also, David Nalbandian advanced to the semifinals for the first time, overwhelming veteran Frenchman Fabrice Santoro 7-5, 6-0, 6-0 today.
Hingis was in vintage form, working Stosur around with angled volleys, drop shots, pinpoint lobs and a stunning, running forehand crosscourt winner.
But the 25-year-old twice missed chances to serve for the match in the second set and wasting three match points in the tiebreaker before converting on a Stosur error.
"I played really well the first 1 sets," she said.
Stosur was the last Aussie in the draw and had the partisan crowd on her side. Clusters of people in pink shirts emblazoned with "Smash 'em Sam" and waving inflatable kangaroos chanted for her from the stands.
Hingis became a favorite at Melbourne when she won her first Grand Slam title at age 16 and won three finals in succession. She lost three in a row from 2000-2002, including an '02 defeat to Jennifer Capriati when she wasted four match points.
In her absence, Clijsters became known locally as "Aussie Kim" during her engagement to Lleyton Hewitt - which ended last year - and remains popular.
They're two of the six current or former No. 1-ranked players in the quarterfinals - a record for a Grand Slam tournament. Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 4 Maria Sharapova, No. 8 Justin Henin-Hardenne are the others.
Davenport and Henin-Hardenne meet today, while 2004 Wimbledon champion Sharapova goes against fellow Russian Nadia Petrova.
After Federer crashed simple overheads into the net in the third and fourth sets, he regained an unwavering calm opening the fifth, when he hit 18 of his 66 winners and cut his errors to six.
In the sixth game, he peeled a forehand down the line, turned an improvised, bunted a backhand service return into a winner and secured the pivotal break by forcing the 41st-ranked Haas to go for too much on a forehand.
Haas disputed an out call, but that was frustration talking. The ball was out and so was Haas' luck - and Federer knew it.
Up 4-2 in the fifth, Federer held at love and then broke Haas' serve for a sixth time to finish the match.
"It was good for me to win in five. I have lost many heartbreakers, this is a good feeling," he said. "I'm happy now I've had a close one and I'm still in the tournament. I wouldn't call it an escape. I thought I was pretty much in control of the match."
Federer was 8-9 in five-set matches, including a 2-6 run from his loss to former No. 2-ranked Haas here in the same round in 2002.
He also lost in five to David Nalbandian at Australia in 2003 and to Marat Safin in the semis last season. He lost again to Nalbandian in the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai, China, last November, after leading 2-0.
"I haven't had too many five-setters in the last couple of years," Federer said. "Makes it a different atmosphere with the crowd getting into it in the fifth set and stuff. It's not something I'm really used to. This is maybe why I'm so happy."
Usually totally composed and clinical, Federer showed some rare emotion when Haas missed a forehand on match point, screaming "Yes" and stabbing an air punch at the court.
He had a 0-2 record in Australia against Haas and also lost to the German in an exhibition match at Kooyong two weeks ago, which does not count on his record. Federer is 9-0 this year following his career-best 81-4 record last season.
Back on the women's side, Mauresmo had a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 16-year-old Nicole Vaidisova to set up a quarterfinal against Patty Schnyder, who beat 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-1.
Clijsters has been too sore to practice but showed no signs of the back and hip pain that has bothered her as she beat 15th-seeded Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (5), 6-4.
"I've probably been in the physio room more in the last week than in my life," she said. "Hopefully it'll pay off."
Fifth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko rallied from two sets and a break down to snap Dominik Hrbaty's run of five-set wins with a 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Hrbaty spent almost 14 hours on court in four matches and was only the fourth man to play four consecutive five-set matches at one major. No. 21 Nicolas Kiefer beat Juan Ignacio Chela and next plays No. 25 Sebastien Grosjean, who defeated fellow Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.

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