Hingis, Clijsters Take Last Two Spots
ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters joined Amélie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova and Elena Dementieva in the singles line up for the Sony Ericsson Championships, set to take place at Madrid Arena in the Spanish capital, November 7-12. Their participation was confirmed when the only other player in contention for the elite eight, Patty Schnyder, fell in the semifinals of the Generali Ladies Linz event in Austria today to Sharapova.
By reaching the semifinals of last week's Zürich Open in her native Switzerland, Hingis, twice a winner this year (Rome, Kolkata), has put a lock on the seventh singles berth, qualifying for the season-ending event for the eighth time in her career but first since leaving the Tour in 2002 due to foot and ankle injuries. Since turning professional in 1994, Hingis has amassed 42 singles titles, including five Grand Slams, spent 209 weeks at No.1, and won more than $19 million in prize money. Hingis made a sensational return to professional tennis this season, and is currently ranked No.8 in the world, having been unranked at the start of 2006.
"I'm really excited to have qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships in my first year back on Tour," said Hingis, who won the event twice (1998 and 2000). "Making the final eight was one of the key targets I set for myself this year. It's a huge honour to be returning to the end-of-season finale. I'm looking forward to taking on the best players in the world. This kind of fantastic competition and challenge is why I came back to tennis."
"Martina has proven that she is the comeback queen with her return to the Tour this year," said Larry Scott, CEO of the Tour. "To return after three years away from the game and not only win titles, but qualify for our Championships shows the kind of champion she is. Martina is a fan favourite the world over and having her in Madrid will be a thrill both for fans of tennis in Spain as well as the millions watching our season-ending finale on television across the globe."
After having the best season of her career in 2005, Clijsters has had to contend with another injury to her left wrist sustained in Montréal two months ago, which has kept her off the Tour since. In between, she picked up her 31st and 32nd career singles titles (Warsaw, Stanford), was a semifinalist at all three Grand Slam tournaments she played up until August, led her nation to the Fed Cup final, and became only the ninth woman to cross $14 million in career earnings. The Belgian is due to return to action next week in her native country at Hasselt.
"It's really satisfying to qualify for the Championships despite not being fully fit this season," said Clijsters. "I'm glad my results during the season were strong enough to get me in. That's where you want to be as a top player at the end of the year, competing out there amongst the best players. I have excellent memories of playing the Championships in New York, Munich and Los Angeles, and now having the event back in Europe is even more exciting. My two victories in Los Angeles are amongst the best memories in my career. I'm really looking forward to returning to the Tour next week and having fun on the court again."
"It's terrific to have a player of Kim's calibre to complete the field at this year's Sony Ericsson Championships," added Scott. "Kim has demonstrated time and time again what a great fighter she is both on the court and when coming back from injury. It promises to be a memorable week."
"Martina's and Kims addition to the line up of the world's elite players underlines the fact that this year's Sony Ericsson Championships will be one of the most entertaining, exciting and fan-based season-ending events that women's tennis has ever experienced," said Dee Dutta, CVP and Head of Marketing at Sony Ericsson. "We all admire both Martina and Kim for their challenger spirit and desire to be the best, which is what the Championships is all about."
"Martina is one of the legends of the women's game and it is wonderful news that she will be one of the eight singles players battling it out in Madrid," said Spanish tennis legend and Championships tournament director Manolo Santana. "Kim's return is much anticipated after coming back from injury. She too is a wonderful champion and we look forward to welcoming all the players in November."
The Championships gather the Top 8 singles players and Top 4 doubles teams from the regular 2006 Tour season as they battle it out for the season-ending titles and a share of the $3-million purse. The defending champions are Amélie Mauresmo in singles and Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur in doubles.