ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) – Martina Hingis hopes to make her return to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open next month.

Hingis, who announced earlier this week that she was coming back after a three-year retirement, is considering Australian Open warmup tournaments in Hong Kong or Gold Coast, Australia.

“It’s going to be great – four more weeks to go probably til I play my first tournament,” the 25-year-old Swiss star said at a news conference.

The Hong Kong exhibition and Gold Coast tournament are scheduled for Jan. 2-9. The Australian Open begins Jan. 16.

“That would be the goal at the moment, to be able to participate at that level,” said Hingis, who won the last of her three straight Australian Open titles in 1999.

Australian Open director Paul McNamee said this week he planned to give Hingis a wild card.

“She has not made up her own mind yet when she’s coming back,” he told Australian media. “We’re hoping Australia, but it’s not a fait accompli.”

Hingis, who retired in 2002 after battling foot, heel and ankle problems said she was willing to “take the risk” of more injuries.

“With every job, you have to be willing to pay some kind of price,” she said.

“You have to be willing to play with pain to a certain level. The question is how much can you take.”

Hingis’ doctor said she would be closely monitored to make sure her previous battles with foot injuries did not reappear.

Dr. Heinz Buehlmann said Hingis was in good health and had overcome her ankle injuries, but her heel problems remained an issue.

“It’s absolutely possible that that problem will come back one day,” Buehlmann said. “It depends on how many tournaments she will play (and) it depends on the training.”

Hingis made a brief comeback in February, losing in the first round of the Volvo Women’s Open in Thailand. Her previous match was at Filderstadt in October 2002, after which she withdrew from all remaining tournaments.

Hingis won 40 singles titles – five Grand Slams – and 36 doubles titles on the WTA Tour. She was only 161/2 when she took over the top ranking in March 1997. She spent 209 of the next 247 weeks in the top spot.

Hingis made her debut on the WTA Tour on Oct. 4, 1994, four days after her 14th birthday. In 1997, she won three of the four majors and missed the Grand Slam by losing the French Open final to Iva Majoli. In 1998, Hingis won all four doubles titles at the majors.

She is one of only five women to be ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles at the same time.

AP-ES-12-03-05 1117EST


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