HINGIS rolls into quarterfinals

Thursday, May 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ Top-seeded Martina Hingis cruised into the Italian Open quarterfinals with a straight-set win Thursday over Russia's Elena Likhovtseva.

The 20-year-old Slovakian-born star stormed back after losing the first three games in the final set for a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 win on Rome's red clay.

``I was a little bit nervous before the match, I took her very seriously,'' said Hingis, after registering her sixth win in six encounters with Kikhovtseva. ``We had long rallies, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. It was very physical.''

Hingis, who won the Foro Italico tournament in 1998, will face seventh-seeded Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in Friday's quarterfinals.

The 29-year-old Spaniard made quick work of another Russian, Lina Krasnoroutskaya, winning 6-1, 6-2 in Thursday's third round.

In other action Thursday, third-seeded Conchita Martinez of Spain glided to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Czech Denisa Chladkova.

Amelie Mauresmo beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.

The fourth-seeded Frenchwoman will face Argentina's Paola Suarez, who also won her third-round match, beating Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-4, 6-2.

The 21-year-old Mauresmo is coming off her fourth title of the year, having beaten Jennifer Capriati last week in the final of the German Open on clay.

Mauresmo, who lost in the final here last year, will try later this month to follow the example of Mary Pierce, who last year was the first Frenchwoman to win the title at Roland Garros since 1967.

Yugoslavia's Jelena Dokic, seeded 14th, ended Hungarian Rita Kuti Kis' tournament with a 6-3 6-3 win.

It was the first meeting between the pair since Dokic came under fire during last year's Australian Open when she lost her first-round match to Kuti Kis and then ungraciously insisted that her opponent ``is not a player and never will be a player.''

The Hungarian reached the third-round at Foro Italico with an impressive victory over second-seeded Capriati on Wednesday.

On Friday Dokic will play Joannette Kruger of South Africa, who beat Gala Leon Garcia of Spain, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The dlrs 1.185 million tournament is a key warmup for Roland Garros, where Hingis has never won.

A three-time French Open champion, with 27 career tournament wins, Sanchez-Vicario has never captured an Italian title. Twice she reached the final, losing to Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in 1989 and fellow Spaniard Conchita Martinez in 1995.