Henman fights off Rusedski

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Tim Henman made it two out of two in his rivalry with fellow Briton Greg Rusedski, but yesterday's triumph in the meeting, dubbed the Battle of the Brits in Ostrava, was a close thing.

Henman, the seventh seed, won in straight sets but needed a tie-break in the first before going on to win his second-round match of the Czech Indoor tournament. Henman had beaten his Canadian-born rival, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the final of the British National Championships at Telford last November when he was the underdog.

Since then, Henman, 22, has come to the fore to take over the No 1 spot while Rusedski's form has languished. The 23-year-old Rusedski, who won the Peking tournament last Sunday, was in determined form yesterday, serving 19 aces during the match.

Henman, however, produced better groundstrokes and service returns than his rival, and he began to get on top after winning the first set tie- breaker, 7-2. Henman edged home 7-5 in the second set to go through to the quarter-finals, which will be notable for the absence of Boris Becker. The German third seed yesterday withdrew from the tournament after a recurrence of the wrist injury which surfaced at Wimbledon earlier this year.

Becker, who tore a ligament in his right wrist during the third round at the All England Club, was in pain after training yesterday and dropped out of his scheduled second-round match against the Czech Martin Damm. "Boris said his wrist was too sore and that he would not be able to play," the ATP Tour Supervisor, Gayle Bradshaw, said.

On Wednesday, Becker had secured a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Denmark's Frederik Fetterlein, but had grabbed his wrist several times throughout the first- round match. The world No 6 tried to return to the circuit last month but the injury forced him to retire from the first round in Bucharest, lose in the second round in Basle and withdraw from Lyon two weeks ago.

Becker's absence has set back his plans to qualify for a record 12th appearance at the season-ending ATP Tour championship. He trails Wayne Ferreira for the eighth and final spot in Hanover, and the South African made the German's task harder with a 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 second-round victory over the Dutch qualifier Joost Winnink.

Jennifer Capriati's career is finally starting to take off again after she reached the quarter-finals of a tournament for only the second time this season. The American beat the seventh seed, Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-3 at the European indoor championship yesterday in Zurich.

Despite double-faulting seven times, the 1992 Olympic champion was never seriously threatened by the world No 12.

"I feel great," said Capriati, who has spent most of the last two seasons recovering from drug abuse and injury problems.

"My play here has just shown me that I'm still capable of beating top players. My confidence may not be what it was but I'm just coming back."

The second seed, Iva Majoli of Croatia, avenged two recent losses to Judith Wiesner when she crushed the Austrian 6-2, 6-2 to move into the last eight.

The British No 1, Sam Smith, will meet Elena Wagner, the top seed from Germany in the quarter-finals of the Texaco Ladies Challenger in Cardiff today.