Tennis: Beaten Henman plans next move

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TIM HENMAN has too much to play for in the weeks ahead to dwell on the disappointment of a fourth-round defeat by Mark Philippoussis at the US Open.

Restored as the British No 1 above Greg Rusedski, who lost to Jan Siermerink in the third round, Henman is due to defend an ATP Tour title in Tashkent next week. On returning from Uzbekistan, the 24-year-old from Oxford will join Rusedski in Nottingham for the Davis Cup World Group play-off against India from 25 to 27 September.

The following day, Henman is likely to be on his way to Munich for the Grand Slam Cup. A Wimbledon semi-final and three wins at the US Open are good enough to give him direct entry to the annual dollar-fest.

Carlos Moya and Alex Corretja, who contested the French Open final in June, have decided to miss the Grand Slam Cup in order to play in the Majorca Open. Moya, guaranteed $350,000 (pounds 217,000) for hitting a ball in Munich (A $250,000 bonus as the French champion, plus $100,000 for the first round) will be compensated by appearance money for supporting his home tournament.

Henman won $431,250 (pounds 267,800) after qualifying for the 1996 Grand Slam Cup, defeating Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion, before losing to Boris Becker in the semi-finals.

Andre Agassi has been mentioned as a possible extra carrot for the promoters this time, although his Grand Slam record this year - fourth round in Australia, first round at the French, second round at Wimbledon, fourth round at the US Open - is not one to brag about.

"I definitely would like to play there," Agassi said after losing to Karol Kucera here. "It's where the best players are, so hopefully they could cut me a little slack and pretend like I deserve to be there."

Henman's goal is to end the season as one of the eight qualifiers for the ATP Tour Championship in Hannover, the event players regard as a measure of the year's campaign. Henman dashed from the National Championships in Telford to make a brief appearance as a substitute last year. "The last two months of the year are going to be really important," he said, "and I'm desperately keen to finish off in Hannover."

Henman was defeated by Philippoussis, 7-5, 0-6, 6-4, 6-1, on Tuesday night here, just as the lower section of the draw appeared to be opening up invitingly. Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the No 11 seed, had been eliminated as a possible quarter-final opponent by Sweden's Thomas Johansson.

Henman, the No 13 seed, was unable to convert any of four break points in a close opening set, but then bamboozled the Australian in the second set, winning the first five games in only nine minutes. A 30-minute rain delay interrupted the Briton's rhythm, and he was disturbed by some of the line calls when broken for 2-3 in the third set. At one point Henman said to the Portuguese umpire, Jorge Dias: "Why are you just sitting on your arse doing nothing? You've just missed two easy over-rules."

Philippoussis became almost unplayable, hitting mighty first serves, sensibly reducing the pace if a second delivery was required, and beating Henman with powerful, accurate ground-strokes and impressive work at the net. The unseeded Australian, ranked No 22, is, as Henman said, "a dangerous type of player - there are times when you feel the match really isn't in your control."

Henman is determined to build on the encouraging aspects of his summer. "Looking at the way I've played in the last two 'Slams, I really feel I've been in contention both times. The more I put myself in contention, I think I will win."

Pat Rafter, the defending champion, advanced to the semi-finals yesterday, beating Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. The Australian No 3 seed, who came back from two sets to love down against Hicham Arazi in the first round, has faced 14 break points in 80 games and has lost serve only four times in his five matches.

Moya, who defeated Corretja, 7-6, 7-5, 6-3, will play Sweden's Magnus Larsson in the quarter-finals. The match was played in cold, windy, conditions and few spectators remained to the end.

"The match was not too good," Corretja said. "If I had been a spectator, I probably would have left, too."

Martina Hingis, the defending women's champion, will renew her rivalry with Jana Novotna, her doubles partner, in the women's semi-finals. Hingis, and her mother and coach, Melanie Molitor, were more emotional than they have been for most of the year after Hingis's defeat of Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4.

Their excited reaction was a compliment to Seles, who has fought back remarkably from adversity to re-establish herself as a major force. But Seles, who outplayed Hingis in the semi-finals of the French Open, was unable to match the world No 1 at crucial stages here. Hingis will now be eager to avenge her semi- final defeat by Novotna at Wimbledon.

Seles has qualified for one of the eight places at the Grand Slam Cup, which has incorporated a women's event this year, but Germany still holds too many bad memories for Seles to travel to Munich: "I really hope one day I'm going to be comfortable to be able to do that," she said, recalling her stabbing in Hamburg in 1993. "Right now it's very difficult for me to feel safe to go back there. Two of my friends live in Germany, I might visit them. That's a different category to playing there. I just feel everything that happened to me was a total injustice."

High winds and showers were a feature of the US Open again yesterday. Lindsay Davenport, seeded to meet Hingis in Saturday's final, advanced to her second consecutive semi-final at Flushing Meadow, defeating the South African Amanda Coetzer, 6-0, 6-4.