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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 22:59 GMT
Challengers out to topple Hingis

serena Serena Williams replaces Venus as No.3 seed

There are a number of challengers seeking to depose world No 1 Martina Hingis as she prepares to defend her title at the Australian Open.

A finalist in three Grand Slam finals in 1999, Hingis was beaten in this week's traditional warm-up event, the Sydney International, by Amelie Mauresmo.

There is no love lost between the pair, after Hingis' comments last season that the Frenchwoman more resembled a man.

Hingis' first round match against Mirijana Lucic could throw up an upset, the Croatian having made it to last year's Wimbledon semi-final.

Hingis hopes to repeat last year's win
But Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport and second seed is the favourite candidate to take Hingis' title.

The American star comes into the tournament on the back of reasonable form at the current Sydney event, where she beat Anna Kournikova to earn a place in the final.

The draw for the next week's season's opener has put Davenport on course for a semi-final meeting with Serena Williams - who beat her in the US Open semi-final last year.

Serena is third seed in the absence of her injured older sister Venus, who pulled out with tendonitis.

The 18-year-old will be keen to build on last year's successes - when she followed up her US Open victory over Hingis with her first professional defeat of her older sister, at the Grand Slam Cup in Munich.

mauresmo Mauresmo wants to go all the way this year
Mauresmo failed to live up to her exciting potential after taking the Australian Open by storm last year and reaching the final but is already showing renewed promise.

She will be keen to go all the way in Melbourne this year - especially having beaten Martina Hingis in Friday's semi-final of the Sydney International.

Other challengers include Mary Pierce, the perennial under-achiever who is seeded fourth, and Kournikova who is hoping her change of coach will continue to improve her form.

Jelena Dokic, the 16-year-old who caused a sensation at Wimbledon last year when she beat Hingis on the way to the quarter-finals, is hoping home advantage helps her cement her place on the women's tour.

"Last year I was a new face but it is a different story now," said Dokic, who was one of Hingis's early victims last year and was in miserable form at this week's event in Sydney.

Four-time Australian Open champion Monica Seles has pulled out with a nagging foot injury.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Tennis
American dream Down Under
12 Jan 00 |  Sport
Venus withdraws from Australian Open
04 Jan 00 |  Tennis
Hingis threatens pay boycott
13 Jan 00 |  Tennis
Tour points for Olympics agreed

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