Sharapova targets Pan Pacific

2007-01-28 11:05

Tokyo - Russian world number one Maria Sharapova is aiming to celebrate her return to the top of the tennis rankings with a win at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament, which starts Tuesday.

The 19-year-old top seed lost to former world number one Serena Williams 6-1, 6-2 in the Australian Open final in Melbourne on Saturday.

But Sharapova is looking to regain the 1.34 million dollar Tokyo indoor title she won in 2005 and said her defeat at the hands of Williams would make her stronger.

In Tokyo, Sharapova is expected to face tough opposition in former world number one Martina Hingis of Switzerland, who dashed Sharapova's defence of the title with a 6-3, 6-1 semi-final win last year here.

Sharapova avenged the loss by beating Hingis twice, at Dubai and Indian Wells, for a 2-1 career record.

Sharapova and three other seeds - second seed Hingis, defending champion Elena Dementieva of Russia and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia - receive first-round byes.

Sharapova, in the top half of the draw with Jankovic and fifth seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, will take on the winner of the match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Japan's Erika Takao in the second round.

The Russian is on course for a possible quarter-final encounter with seventh seed Shahar Peer. Peer, 19, became the first Israeli player to make a Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open.

The 26-year-old Hingis, who will play either American Meghann Shaughnessy or a qualifier, is also looking to win back the title she won four times - in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002. She lost to Dementieva in the final last year.

Hingis has been drawn in the same quarter as sixth seed and Asia's number one, Li Na of China, and in the same half as eighth seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

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