Tennis' Martinas to face off
Martina Navratilova (AFP)
Adelaide - The long-heralded "Battle of the Martinas" may well be staged at an upcoming pre-Australian Open exhibition in Adelaide after the signing of both Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis for the three-day event in January.
The pair of former No 1 players - 56-year-old Navratilova and the 32-year-old Hingis - will also be the first women to play in the event, the World Tennis Challenge, to be held January 8-10, officials announced on Sunday.
Navratilova won 59 career titles while Hingis claimed her five Grand Slam trophies over a three-year span in the late 1990s as a teenager.
Adelaide tournament boss Mark Woodforde said that Navratilova was a "must-have" for the event which was formerly played by men alone. Signing Hingis guaranteed a showdown between the two generations of WTA champions.
"We've been discussing adding women for a year now," Woodforde told the Sunday Mail newspaper. "We don't want the product to become worn out. We want to stay one step ahead.
"We're absolutely delighted to be welcoming two of the biggest names in the history of women's tennis. Showcasing the greatest tennis legends at Memorial Drive has always been an aim and with the event's popularity growing it was the perfect time to introduce female legends as we celebrate our fifth year in 2013."
Previous Adelaide editions have featured a mix of current men players and former greats in a mix of singles and doubles.
"My old friend Mark Woodforde contacted me to say that the World Tennis Challenge was looking to head into a new direction with the introduction of women players," said Navratilova.
"After hearing about the event from some of the past WTC players and knowing Mark - I was honoured to be one of the first women invited to play - it's such a unique concept - I'm really looking forward to it"."
Hingis will be making her debut in the city. "I've heard all about the event from some of the guys and it sounds such a unique and exciting event. It is the perfect combination of some great tennis and fun entertainment. I think it is a great way to start another year of tennis," said the Swiss.
"In all our time on the tour (Martina and I) never really got to play against each other so it's always a special moment when we meet across the net these days."
The traditional men's field includes Alexandr Dolgopolov, Stanislas Warwinka, Viktor Troicki and Australia's current No1 Marinko Matosevic. "Legends" comprise regulars Pat Cash, Henri Leconte, Mats Wilander, Yannick Noah and wildcard Mansour Bahrami.