Bad habit hinders Henman

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The Independent Online
THERE was much to admire, and a habit to discourage, as Britain's Tim Henman pushed Sergi Bruguera, the 10th seed, to three sets here yesterday before losing to the Spaniard in the second round of the Lipton Championships, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Henman's recovery in the second set was a plus - particularly since he was penalised a point when the former French Open champion was serving for the first.

The talented 21-year-old from Oxford, it will be remembered, suffered the ignominy last year of being the first player to be disqualified at Wimbledon in the open era. He hit a ball in anger during a doubles match, and it struck a ball girl in the head.

Spectators on No 2 Court here expressed sympathy with Hemman when the point was deducted with Bruguera leading, 5-3, 30-0. Henman had fired a ball down the court in frustration. But the Brazilian umpire, Paulo Pereira, one of the full-time ATP Tour officials, had already issued a warning after Henman belted a ball at his chair in the opening game.

"I have no problem with the warning in the first game," Henman said. "I was frustrated. It was a way of letting out my anger. If anything, it probably helped me to settle down in the match. With regards to getting a point penalty, I think it was a pretty bad judgement from his [the umpire's] point of view. I probably didn't do anything particularly wrong. He made the call. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, that's for sure."

Harsh though the punishment may have seemed, the incident should serve as a reminder to Henman to curb the impulse. In all other respects, he is an examplary competitor.

The penalty did not influence the course of the set, or of the match. Although Henman outmanoeuvred Bruguera in the second set, he made too many errors in attempting to respond to the Spaniard's groundstrokes in the third.

Later, Greg Rusedski was also eliminated in the second round, losing to Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, 6-4, 7-6. Rusedski had three set points in the tie-break, one of them on serve. Bjorkman prevailed, 11-9.

David Lloyd paid a brief visit on Friday before announcing his Davis Cup squad for Britain's tie against Slovenia at Newcastle from 3-5 May. It did not take a much working out. Henman and Rusedski will play in the singles, and Lloyd will decide nearer the time which of them partners Neil Broad in the doubles. Mark Petchey, of Essex, and Nick Gould, of Avon, complete the squad.

Lloyd, whose appointment as the Davis Cup captain last year coincided with the Canadian-born Rusedski's decision to declare his allegiance to Britain, is encouraged by the rankings duel which has developed between his leading players. Rusedski is currently No 45, Henman, No 58.

Thomas Muster is in danger of becoming the world No 1 pushover. The Austrian left-hander has lost three times in his opening match while reigning as the highest ranked player in the game. Yesterday, Nicolas Pereira, a 25- year-old Venezuelan ranked No 114, joined the Romanian Adrian Voinea and Australia's Sandon Stolle in the Topple Thomas Club.

Pereira, who was the junior world champion in 1988 and has scored wins over Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, added Muster's name to his CV, defeating the French Open champion, 7-6, 6-4.

"I was No 1 the way I played last year, and the way I'm playing now I'm not No 1," Muster said, adding that his form in recent weeks had not been helped by a foot injury, a stomach upset and a virus.

He also expressed relief at leaving behind the concrete courts and returning to the slower clay on which he won 11 of his 12 titles last year.