A year later, Hingis finds the going tougher

None | ByAssociated Press, Melbourne
Jan 18, 2007 11:53 AM IST

This year, having moved to No. 7 in the rankings - she was 349th at the start of the last Australian Open - she realises there's a lot of pressure for her to do well.

Year two into Martina Hingis' comeback from retirement and things aren't getting any easier.

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HT Image

"Everybody expects me to get to the quarterfinals, whereas last year every match was a big win, big victory," the 26-year-old Swiss star said on Thursday after her 6-2, 6-2 win over Russian Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round of the Australian Open.

"The young girls are pushing, and the ones up top, they want to stay there," added Hingis. "So it's pretty much the same situation, only that I'm more confident, I've played matches, I've played tournaments, and now I know where I stand compared to last year."

Still, she's pleased with her success in 2006. "It was a great year, a great season," Hingis said. "I'm definitely happy. It could have been better, it could have been worse. I'm looking forward to what this year is going to bring to me."

Off the courts, it could be a wedding - she and Czech player Radek Stepanek became engaged last month. No date has been set for the nuptials, and the couple remains tightlipped about the timing.

Hingis, however, spoke of their relationship. "I know my private life is balanced and I'm happy the way things are going," said Hingis.

"We both can focus on our games and not having to worry about anything else. We support each other. "You live a life at the courts, as well, which sometimes was missing. Now we both know that, OK, we go do our jobs and then the next day we can enjoy ourselves."

This year, having moved to No. 7 in the rankings - she was 349th at the start of the last Australian Open - she realises there's a bit more pressure for her to do well.

Hingis won three Australian titles in a row from 1997, then lost three consecutive finals before quitting the tour because of foot and ankle problems.

Coming back, she thinks the women's tour is deeper now than ever, and even the best players can get difficult matches from the first round at a Slam.

"The young girls, they just really attack," Hingis said. "That's what you have to face today, and anybody can come out on a given day, and you have to just work against that."

Her unlikely run for a fourth Australian title last year ended in a quarterfinal loss Kim Clijsters, and the two could meet again this year in the quarters.

"It's not an easy draw," Hingis said. "I really try to look just next round. That's why when people asked me at the press conference the first day, I didn't really know what was in the second round, how to pronounce her name (Kudryavtseva). Now I know."

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