RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) – Anna Kournikova left open the possibility of a return to professional tennis.

The 24-year-old Russian, who hasn’t played professionally since 2003 because of back problems, said she doesn’t have any plans to return to the WTA Tour any time soon, but added that “the possibility is not completely out of the question.”

Kournikova made the comments in Brazil ahead of Saturday night’s match against Martina Hingis on a court set up on Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana beach.

Hingis recently announced she is returning to the professional circuit. The 25-year-old Swiss player retired from the WTA Tour in 2002 after battling a series of injuries.

“I’m just waiting for a wild card to play in the Australian Open,” Hingis said Friday. “To face Anna will be a good test for me.”

Kournikova and Hingis teamed up to win the Australian Open doubles title in 1999 and 2002.

Hingis won five Grand Slam singles titles in her career and was only 161/2 when she took over the top ranking in March 1997.

On Friday, three-time French Open winner Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil beat Mariano Puerta of Argentina to win an exhibition tournament at Copacabana beach. Nicolas Kiefer of Germany and Robby Ginepri of the United States also took part in the event.

AP-ES-12-10-05 1125EST


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