Tennis: British duo fall at the final hurdle

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The Independent Online
THE FATE of Greg Rusedski is now in the hands of his Russian rival Yevgeny Kafelnikov for the remaining place in the ATP Tour World Championship in Hanover, after the British player's brilliant surge to the brink of qualification ended at the Stockholm Open yesterday when he was beaten 7-5 7-6 (9-7) in the semi-finals by Thomas Johansson.

Rusedski now has to rely on Kafelnikov losing to Goran Ivanisevic in tomorrow's final of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow to qualify for Hanover.

The British No 2 never got into his stride in the first set against Johansson, although it took until Rusedski's last service game of the set, with the score at 5-5, for the Swede to finally break the powerful left-hander.

The second set went to a thrilling tie-break, which Johansson won 9-7 to the delight of the partisan crowd, leaving Britain without any representatives in the final following Tim Henman's 4-6 6-1 6-2 defeat in the earlier semi-final at the hands of the American Todd Martin.

Henman had already sealed his qualification for the lucrative end-of- season tournament in Hanover by reaching the last four of the Swedish event, but a succession of unforced errors cost him an appearance in the final here. Instead, he left ruing a huge dip in form that at one stage saw him lose four service games in succession.

Henman had opened the match in superb fashion, breaking Martin's opening service game as the American double-faulted. The Briton could afford to spurn three more break points in the set as he held his own serve comfortably. However, after taking the first set Henman capitulated in startling fashion.

"I'm disappointed," said Henman, who plans to take a break to prepare for Hanover, which starts a week on Tuesday. "Just because I qualified for Hanover didn't mean that this event was over. I didn't have the same adrenaline today. I've got to put this loss behind me."

The British No 1 was broken twice to trail 4-0 in the second set and although he managed a break of his own in the next game, Martin responded immediately to take the set 6-1 and level the match. A shellshocked Henman continued to struggle, losing his first service game of the third set, Martin's fourth break on the trot. When the American made it five out of six to lead 4-1, Henman's title hopes had all but disappeared.

The end was mercifully quick as Martin took the match and left Henman with plenty to think about ahead of his much-anticipated Hanover appearance. "Some might say it [the defeat] was inevitable - but I'd find that disappointing if it was. It's important to get my thoughts on Hanover now. At the end of the day, I came here to qualify and that's what I did."

In Moscow, Kafelnikov, defending his Kremlin Cup title, advanced to the final after sixth-seeded Marc Rosset withdrew in the second set with a hip injury. In the other semi-final, third-seed Ivanisevic ousted the surprise contender Arnaud Clement, 7-5, 6-2.