Tim Henman, Britain's No 1, was comprehensively beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the Czech left-hander Petr Korda in the second round of the Italian Indoor Championships in Milan yesterday.
Korda, once ranked as high as No 5 in the world four years ago, returned Henman's first serve superbly and when it came to baseline rallies the 29-year-old Czech usually came out on top.
What made Henman's defeat more frustrating was the fact that he hit far more first serves into court than his rival and also struck 10 aces to Korda's six.
But the Czech, now ranked 29, showed great anticipation when receiving and although his service was not so quick as Henman's he dropped only 14 points in his 10 service games.
Henman was under real pressure from the fifth game where he saved two break points to hold on to a 3-2 lead.
Korda had four more break points in the seventh game and eventually broke through to go to 4-3 after Henman served his first double-fault. That one break was enough to give Korda the first set in 34 minutes.
Henman saved another break point in the third game of the second set but dropped his service for the second time to trail 2-3. That break again proved enough although there was still some drama to come.
Trailing 3-5, Henman saved a match point with his 10th ace and held his service after six deuces. He had his first break point in the following game at 30-40, only for Korda to take the next three points for victory.
The victory was revenge for Korda who lost to Henman in their only previous meeting, in the 1996 Australian Open. Henman, then very much the underdog, won 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Henman, No 14 in the world, looks certain to lose a few ranking places in the next two weeks following this defeat as well as the fact that he is not playing in the Rotterdam tournament next week, where he reached the semi-finals last year.Reuse content