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Hotter than Kournikova...

BARBARA SCHETT could not stop laughing after she had beaten Anna Kournikova in the tennis babe stakes.

The Austrian was voted the sexiest player on the women's tour by tennis magazine Ace.

Russian pin-up Kournikova was demoted to runner-up, ending her four-year reign.

And Schett, who arrives in London today to prepare for Wimbledon, admitted: "I haven't seen the magazine but friends kept ringing up and telling me. I couldn't stop laughing when I heard I had beaten Anna.

"It's stupid when you look at her compared to me. I mean you never expect these things yourself and I'm very honoured but I still think it's funny."

The pair met on court in the Australian Open third round this year, Kournikova won 2-6 6-4 6-3, and teamed up for the doubles in Melbourne, reaching the quarter-finals.

But Kournikova's foot injury means she will miss Wimbledon, leaving Schett  nicknamed Babsi back home  to attract all the attention in SW19 next week.

Schett, 25, said: "I'll buy a wig when I get to London so I can sneak in without being noticed."

Fat chance! Schett is unmistakable with her blonde hair, green eyes, long legs and 5ft 9in frame and yes guys, she is definitely SINGLE.

Last year she dumped Thomas Prerovsky, her boyfriend and coach for the previous five years.

The pair planned to marry until Babsi decided it wasn't to be.

Schett said: "At the moment, I'm happy being single. I need a break from men  although it's funny  how many boys suddenly have the courage to talk to me."

Her tennis is improving, too. She beat world No2 and reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in last month's French Open first round.

And, while Kournikova, 20, has never won a big tournament, Schett already has three singles titles to her credit and around 1million in prize money.

She also has a new coach, former Austrian Davis Cup player Harald Meir, who has known Schett since she first picked up a racket as a four-year-old.

The tall right-hander turned pro at 15 but did not start playing her best tennis until she hit her 20s.

She said: "I like nothing more than being at home and catching up with friends. I love to go hiking at home in Innsbruck when the weather is good and in winter I love skiing.

"But, because of all the travelling I have to do, I'm not here that often and that can be tough."

World No23 Schett has been resting and having treatment after pulling out of Eastbourne this week when she twisted an ankle walking in woods near her home.

She is seeded 21 for Wimbledon and faces a qualifier in round one. Schett said: "I reached the fourth round two years ago but got knocked out in the first last year so I'm happy there are 32 seeds now.

"I'm looking forward to Wimbledon. It's very different from the other Grand Slams and it's a big change for me to play on grass.

"And hopefully the weather will be good  particularly as it's raining here in Innsbruck.

"Beating Venus last month has given me more self-confidence and I'm mentally stronger.

"My highest singles ranking was seven in 1999 and I'd like to get back in the top 10 and stay there.

"But I'm enjoying my tennis much more. There were a lot of changes in my life last year with my coach and everything and I had to get used to all that."