Rusedski probable obstacle for Henman

Tim Henman, the British No 1, beat Nicklas Kulti of Sweden, 7-6, 6-4, in the first round of the Czech Indoor tournament in Ostrava yesterday to set up a probable showdown in the second round with his Davis Cup partner Greg Rusedski.

"It was a tough match," Henman said. "I felt more comfortable in the second set. I enjoy playing a tough match right from the start; it focuses you quickly."

For the all-Britain confrontation to go ahead, Rusedski, winner of the Peking Open on Sunday, has first to beat the Swiss qualifier George Bastl in his first-round match. That game will not be played until tomorrow to allow the left-hander time to recover from his flight from China.

Henman could meet Rusedski on Thursday, which would be the second time they have met in competition. Henman beat his rival, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the final of the British National Championships in Telford last November.

Henman also learned yesterday that he could be a starter in the Compaq Grand Slam Cup to be played in Munich from 3 to 8 December.

Sixteen players, who have the best records in the four Grand Slams this year, compete in this lucrative event, with two alternate players on site in case of withdrawals from the original field.

Henman was only No 20 on the list but both Sweden's Stefan Edberg and Austrian Thomas Muster have withdrawn and the British player is now the second alternate.

For turning up in Munich he will receive pounds 33,333, and if two more players drop out he would receive a minimum of pounds 66,666 for playing in the first round.

As for Rusedski, his triumph in Peking has boosted his world ranking from 75 to 53. Henman, who did not play last week because of blisters on his feet, remains at No 26 in the world rankings.