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Davenport, Hingis, Huber Win Before Rain

January 20, 1996

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport, teen-agers in a rush to win a Grand Slam title, fought the wind and beat the rain Saturday to surge into the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Hingis, a 15-year-old from Switzerland, equaled her best Grand Slam performance so far with a 6-1, 6-1 romp over Mana Endo, who had ousted No. 5 Kimiko Date.

The 10th-seeded Davenport, a 19-year-old from Southern California, had a difficult time disposing of Finland’s Nanne Dahlman, 6-4, 7-5. Germany’s Anke Huber also reached the fourth round by beating Ludmila Richterova 6-2, 6-1.

Hingis and Davenport barely finished before heavy rain suspended play. Strong gusts of winds played havoc with shots during those women’s matches, blowing plastic bags and other trash onto the courts.

In just a few minutes, the temperature dropped from 84 to 61 degrees.

``It was some of the worst conditions I have played in,″ Davenport said. ``It was so windy, and then all of a sudden it just got so cold in, like, five seconds, and the wind shifted.″

Play on Center Court was suspended for more than an hour while the retractable roof was closed for the first time this tournament. No. 6 Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia then finished his 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Australian Michael Tebbutt.

Hingis reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open last September and played well over the last few months to give her the confidence that she can beat anyone. Against Endo, a player of modest talent, Hingis popped up endless moonballs, reminiscent of Tracy Austin, and finished off rallies with linedrive winners.

Once the domain of teen-agers in braces, women’s tennis has been ruled recently by players in their 20s _ Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Conchita Martinez, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gabriela Sabatini. And it wasn’t too long ago that 30-something Martina Navratilova won her ninth Wimbledon and played the final for her 10th.

All those players started out on the tour as teen-agers and, except for Navratilova, met success early. Graf turned pro at 13, Seles at 15, But the rules changed last year, after Hingis turned pro, raising the minimum age to 15 and restricting the number of tournaments they can play until 18.

That may be good for the young players, good for the older ones and good for the game, but it’s left a yawning gap between those on the rise and those well-established. Of the 16 players left in the Australian, the only seeded teens are Davenport, No. 7 Iva Majoli, and No. 13 Chanda Rubin.

Two years ago, Davenport scored one of first big Grand Slam victories here, beating two-time finalist Mary Joe Fernandez on Court 1, where Davenport played Saturday.

``I was thinking about that,″ Davenport said. ``It was so exciting. It’s fun to think back on those times because it was so new. Now it is kind of just normal to go and play in front of more people. Those were definitely some of my best times two years ago here. I got to my first Grand Slam quarterfinals, and I will always remember this tournament for that.″

Since then, though, Davenport has never gone beyond the quarters in a major, getting that far only twice again _ at Wimbledon in 1994 and at the Australian last year.

Hingis, unseeded with a No. 19 ranking, believes she could be ``somewhere between 10 and 15 if she were playing more often.

``I can beat good players,″ she said, ``but not all the time.″

Huber, the No. 8 seed, had long been saddled by those expecting her to be ``the next Steffi Graf.″ Huber never was, and at 21 her best showing so far came in the season-ending WTA Tour Championship in New York, where she pushed Graf to five sets before losing.

Her experience in the troubling weather conditions Saturday was not pleasant.

``It was just horrible to play,″ Huber said. ``It was good for me (because) I had more control in the wind. It was not a lot of fun to play.″

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