Hingis will soon be in top 10, says Sharapova

Updated: January 30, 2006, 7:30 AM ET

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, Jan 30 - Martina Hingis will soon be back among the world's elite players after making a strong return to the game in Australia, Maria Sharapova said on Monday.

Former world number one Hingis reached the Australian Open quarter-finals last week in her first grand slam since retiring through injury in 2002.

Her performance in Melbourne lifted Hingis 232 places to number 117 in Monday's new world rankings and Sharapova backed the Swiss to break into the top 10.

"Women's tennis is at such a high level right now that everyone in the top 10 is a rival," said Sharapova before this week's Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

"Martina is not in there yet but I'm sure she will quickly get into the top 10."

Sharapova won last year's Pan Pacific Open while Hingis shares the record of four titles with Lindsay Davenport, having won the tournament in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

Hingis began her comeback earlier this month and said her performance in Melbourne, where she also won the mixed doubles crown with India's Mahesh Bhupathi, had given her a huge lift.

"Definitely I played good tennis 'down under' and it is really nice to be back," said Hingis, who received a wild card for the

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