Henman and Rusedski dispatched

TENNIS: Britain's leading singles players suffer a pre-Wimbledon setback in west London

The British challenge was terminated in the second round of the Stella Artois Championships here yesterday by the expertise and experience of two players who are best known in the company of others (and, no, Thomas Muster, the Duchess of York's friend, was not one of them).

Tim Henman was defeated by Andrei Olhovskiy, who partners Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the Russian Davis Cup team, and Greg Rusedski lost to Todd Woodbridge, who forms the world's No 1 doubles team with his Australian compatriot Mark Woodforde.

Both Britons, who are due to play in Nottingham next week, acknowledged that much work is required in the 12 days before the start of Wimbledon. Henman, beaten 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 by Olhovskiy, was particularly disappointed with his forehand returns. Rusedski, dispatched 6-1, 6-4 by Woodbridge, was concerned about the quality of the second shots he had to play after pounding down his serves.

Henman performed well until midway through the second set. The 21-year- old from Oxford saved three set points at 4-5 in the opening set, and gained the initiative in the tie-break by confidently returning a second serve down the line for 4-1: the very forehand shot which was to cost him later.

Although broken in the third game of the second set, Henman had two opportunities to recover to 3-3, only for the forehand to desert him. "My forehand return let me down a lot today," Henman said, "and when you can pinpoint something as precisely as that it gives you something to go away and work on.''

Olhovskiy may be ranked 49 places below Henman, at No 110, but he has the all-court skills to profit on any surface. He demonstrated that as a Wimbledon qualifier in 1992, eliminating Jim Courier, the No 1 seed, in the third round.

The Russian broke in the opening game of the final set and wore Henman down in the third. After saving four break points, the Briton double-faulted to offer a fifth, which Olhovskiy converted with a backhand down the line.

Henman briefly raised hope among his supporters on Court No 1 by breaking Olhovskiy with a splendid backhand lob when the Russian served for the match at 5-2, but lost his own serve in the next game.

There was less to enthuse about in Rusedski's case. Woodbridge presented him with the opportunity of a dream start by twice double-faulting en route to 0-40 in the opening game, but Rusedski was unable to convert any one of five break points. A sixth was presented in the fifth game, only to be whisked away by the Australian's volley. "It was one of those days you want to put behind you," Rusedski said.

Woodbridge, who, at 5ft 10in, is on the small side by modern tennis standards, has the ability to turn opponents' strengths against them. "I was lucky to get out of that first game," he admitted. "I just hung together, and from then on I returned well and nullified his weapon [Rusedski's serve]. Everything else in my game is better, and I think that showed.''

The Australian, who hopes to continue his penchant for frustrating the big servers by forcing them to play more shots than they find comfortable, appreciates that Rusedski and his ilk are perfectly capable of retaliating. "Unfortunately, on certain days you can't beat these guys,'' Woodbridge said. "They serve too big and take a swing at your serves and their returns go in.'' Apart from losing the match, Rusedski had some of his tennis clothing stolen from the locker-rooms.

Michael Stich, who lost to Kafelnikov in last Sunday's French Open final, defeated the American Michael Joyce, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, but was not impressed. "I'm still trying to work out in my mind how I lost in Paris," the German said.

Stefan Edberg advanced with a 7-6, 6-3, win against Australia's Sandon Stolle and Goran Ivanisevic scarcely paused for breath in dismissing the Czech Martin Damm, 6-2, 6-2, in only 41 minutes.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 24

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