Edberg blocks Henman's rise

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The Independent Online
Tim Henman's world ranking may have risen one place, to a career-best 25, in the latest list of rankings released yesterday, but Stefan Edberg brought him swiftly and surely back to reality last night in the first round of the Eurocard Open in Stuttgart.

Henman, the British No 1, looked far from sharp in losing 6-4, 6-2 to the former two-time Wimbledon champion. Henman, who has reached the semi- finals of six ATP Tour events this year, including last week's Czech Open, missed many first serves against the world No 18.

Edberg, who is retiring at the end of this year though still only 30, broke Henman in the seventh game and that was enough to give the Swede the opening set. Henman will be kicking himself for not going ahead early in the set when he led 2-1 and had three break points on Edberg's serve at 0-40.

Edberg, getting to the net as often as possible, stepped up the pace in the second set and broke Henman in the first game and again in the seventh to win in straight sets. Edberg said: "It was not a great match. It was nothing like the match we had at the US Open, where we both played very well before I won in four sets." Edberg will meet the world No 5 Goran Ivanisevic in the second round.

Earlier in the day, Greg Rusedski, the British No 2 whose world ranking dropped from 53 to 56, beat David Rikl of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-3, in the final qualifying round. Henman has 1,327 world ranking points while Rusedski has 794. The three other Britons listed in the top 200 are Chris Wilkinson (213 points) in 189th place, Danny Sapsford (209) in 194th place, and Mark Petchey (197) in 200th position.

The Australian Patrick Rafter defeated Vincent Spadea of the United States, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, in a rain-postponed final to win the US$722,000 Marlboro Tennis Championships in Hong Kong yesterday.

The 23-year-old Rafter, ranked 56th in the world, won a career-high US$220,000 for his 2hr 35min victory at the Victoria Park court. "It was a very tight match because, no matter how much you try not to think about the money involved, it is always at the back of your mind," Rafter said. He said he would take the rest of the year off before starting preparations for the Australian Open in January.

Spadea, 22, also took home his biggest pay cheque, US$65,000. He was not eligible for the normal US$100,000 runner-up prize because he was a lucky loser entry into the semi-finals after the fourth seed, American Richey Reneberg, pulled out with a stomach virus.

"It was a strange tournament for me," Spadea said. "I have never been a lucky loser before and, after thinking I was out, suddenly found myself in the final. I am happy that I was given the chance, but not happy with the way I played. There is definitely a lot that I have to improve upon."

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