Tennis: Becker doubles as partner and bogeyman for Henman

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The Independent Online
While Tim Henman's prospects of putting his season back on track would appear daunting with a first-round draw against Boris Becker in the $1m (pounds 620,000) Dubai Open, which starts today, the match might be just the challenge the British No 2 needs. So, too, might the opportunity to partner Becker in the doubles.

Since last month's semi-final victory in Sydney over Patrick Rafter, the United States Open champion, Henman's confidence has faltered. His loss to Karol Kucera in the Sydney final was not the shock some imagined, a point the talented Slovak underlined at the Australian Open in Melbourne, eliminating Pete Sampras en route to the semi-finals.

Henman's subsequent performances have caused concern, however, falling far below the level of a top 20 player. He was defeated in the first round of the Australian Open by Jerome Golmard, a French qualifier, and suffered a further setback last week, losing in his opening match in Zagreb to Germany's Rainer Schuttler, ranked No 115 in the world.

Henman's only previous contest with Becker was in the semi-finals of the Grand Slam Cup at the Olympic Hall in Munich in 1996. Becker edged a tie-break in the opening set and went on to win, 7-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Neither Henman nor Becker has happy memories of last year's Dubai tournament. Henman lost in the first round to Germany's Martin Sinner, and Becker withdrew from the quarter-finals after damaging a wrist, an injury which put him out of the game for two months.

Henman's partnership with Becker opens against the Spaniards Alex Corretja and Javier Sanchez.

In Split, Greg Rusedski's great run in the Croatian Indoor tournament came to an end when he was beaten 7-6, 7-6 by Goran Ivanisevic in a final in which he never once lost his service. It was the second successive year that Rusedski had lost to his rival in the final of this event.

l Lindsay Davenport defeated the world No 1 and defending champion, Martina Hingis, to win the Toray Pan Pacific Open 6-3, 6-3 yesterday.

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