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Hingis and Zvereva win women’s doubles

January 24, 1997

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Martina Hingis won her first Australian Open title on Friday, even before playing her singles final.

Hingis contributed her usually reliable groundstrokes and a solid volley to the attack as she and Natasha Zvereva of Belarus beat Americans Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond 6-2, 6-2 in the women’s doubles final.

``I hope to have a good day tomorrow too,″ Hingis said in a center court victory speech.

The match lasted less than an hour, putting little strain on Hingis on the eve of her singles final against Mary Pierce. At age 16, Hingis would become this century’s youngest singles champion of a Grand Slam tournament if she can beat Pierce, the 1995 Australian champion.

Playing the doubles, Hingis said, ``was better than practice″ for the final.

She already is the youngest Wimbledon champion ever, thanks to doubles. She teamed with Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic for the title there last year.

For Friday’s doubles victory, Hingis and Zvereva, the fourth-seeded pair, will split $180,000. The women’s singles prize is $433,600.

Zvereva wrapped up the first set for the winners with a soft, sharply angled forehand crosscourt passing shot and a forehand volley on the last two points, against Raymond’s serve.

Hingis then started the pair off to a quick lead in the second set, keeping serve in the first game and saving one point with an acrobatic backhand volley followed a few shots later by an overhead winner.

On match point, she drilled a backhand serve return down the middle against Davenport.

Hingis and Zvereva reached the final by upsetting the top-seeded pair, Gigi Fernandez and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, in the semifinals Thursday. It came soon after Hingis won her singles semifinal 6-1, 6-3 against Mary Joe Fernandez.

``Two matches yesterday, that was really tough,″ Hingis said. ``Today was a little easier, we just played very well together.″

The pair has no plan to stay together, although Hingis said she has told Zvereva, ``I’m free all the time.″

Zvereva usually plays with American Meredith McGrath, currently injured.

Hingis has future doubles dates with Jana Novotna, Gigi Fernandez and Fernandez, but hasn’t yet arranged her partnership for Wimbledon.

While Hingis said that while singles is more important to her, doubles has helped.

``My game gets much more aggressive,″ she said.

Davenport and Raymond, the third seeds, beat the second-seeded pair, Sukova and Larisa Neiland of Latvia, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals.

The world’s No. 1 men’s pair, Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open winners, reached the final here by beating Americans Rick Leach and Jonathan Stark 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-1 Friday.

They will play Canadian Sebastien Lareau and American Alex O’Brien, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 semifinal winners over Dutch players Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis.

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