Hingis gears up to face Davenport, Williams duo
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -- Top seed Martina Hingis will be facing the might of the U.S. women's tennis machine in her bid for a fourth Australian Open title in five years.
Hingis, who is fit and on form after playing lead-up events in Perth and Sydney, won the Australian crown every year from 1997 to 1999 and is looking to end a two-year barren spell in grand slam tournaments.
But Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are all confident of making progress as they prepare for the tournament starting on Monday in Melbourne.
Though widely recognized as the smartest player in women's tennis, Hingis' smaller frame makes it harder for her to match the power game of her main rivals.
The draw has meanwhile done her no favors and she faces the daunting prospect of possibly having to beat both Williams sisters just to reach the final.
"It's definitely not easy," she said. "If I win the Australian Open this year, I definitely would deserve it.
"A lot of girls are already intimidated just going on to the court but I'm the No. 1 player.
"I have to defend my position so I shouldn't be scared of anything. I know I can play good tennis."
Davenport is the quiet achiever of the big four but still finished 2000 ranked second in the world. She beat Hingis to win the Australian Open but lost the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals to Venus.
The American had a troublesome year with injuries but is fully fit again. She had a great preparation in Sydney and has the easiest draw of the big four.
"I'm really happy with my preparations," she said. "I think I've had the perfect mix of a few hard games but not too many."
After winning Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympic gold medal, Venus had obvious claims on the No. 1 spot but had to settle for No. 3 on account that she played fewer tournaments.
She missed last year's Australian Open and has played just one doubles match to prepare for this one but remains as confident as ever.
"If I'm not ready now then I should just go home," she said in typically blunt fashion.
Venus' younger sister Serena upset Hingis to win the 1999 U.S. Open but has not made a major final since and says she wants to leave her mark this year.
She lost to Hingis in the quarterfinals of the Sydney international this week but like her sister, but remains optimistic.
"I was a little bit rusty, so I'm doing pretty good considering," Serena said.
"I only played this tournament as a warm-up to the Australian Open, but I feel like I'm getting my rhythm back.
"I should definitely be ready next week."
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