Tennis: Britons find their feet in Paris

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The Independent Online
AFTER A cloudless day at the French Open, the big news from a British perspective is that two representatives advanced to the third round of the men's singles for the first time since 1978, when John Lloyd and Buster Mottram trod the clay.

Tim Henman, the No 7 seed, defeated the Czech Jiri Novak, 5-7, 6-1, 7- 5, 6-2 and now plays Alberto Berasategui, a Span-iard whose strokes are as complicated as his surname, for a place in the last 16.

And Greg Rusedski, the No 13 seed, overcame Richard Fromberg, of Australia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, so heightening the illusion that the groundstaff at Stade Roland Garros had dyed grass courts red.

Fromberg added to the confusion by wearing banned grass-court shoes. Rusedski's coach, Sven Groeneveld, left his seat in the stand to ask a tournament official why the Australian was allowed to ignore a "no grass- court shoes" directive posted on the locker-room wall. Rusedski, who was going through a frustrating phase of the match, looked up and said: "Where's Sven gone - the bloody toilet?"

Rusedski could only blame himself for prolonging the match, missing five break points in the second set. He is now looking forward to an extended run. "If you get to the second week of a Grand Slam, every one of the 16 players feel they have a chance," he said. He now plays Davide Sanguinetti, an Italian Davis Cup player.

Henman made an impressive recovery after losing the opening set. "I knew it was going to be awkward," said Henman, who was taken to five sets by Novacek in the first round at Wimbledon last year. "He's had a lot of good results on clay, and the way I turned it round after being a set down and up against it was really satisfying. I had a shaky patch at the end of the third set, but to come through that gives you a lot of confidence. It was high-pressure stuff."

The odd harsh word was exchanged over line calls, a legacy, Henman said, of when he and Novak were on opposing sides in the doubles final at the Monte Carlo Open in April. "In Monte Carlo there was a close ball. I asked him how it was. He just circled it and pointed to it. We changed ends, I walked round, and the ball was on the line. I can't say there's a great deal of trust. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but if you're pointing to different marks, or circling marks, implying that they're out when they're obviously in, then I don't have respect for that."

As for Henman's next opponent, there have been times when Berasategui has looked as lost on the faster surfaces as British players usually do on clay.

When the Spaniard qualified for the eight-man ATP Tour Championship at the end of 1994, having been runner-up to his compatriot Sergi Bruguera at the French Open, he lost his three matches in the round robin.

Although ranked No 97 in the world, Berasategui still has the capacity to bewilder opponents with his contorted forehand, twisting his wrist to deliver his shots with the same side of the racket as his orthodox backhand.

"I think there's a pretty clear-cut game plan to play Berasategui," Henman said. "You definitely don't want to let him dictate the rallies. Once he gets moving and hitting his forehand, then you're up against it. I need to serve well, I need to try and attack his backhand at each opportunity." He added: "It's a match where I have nothing to lose. I'll be really looking forward to it."

Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Australian Open champion, world No 1 and top seed, extended a dismal run by losing in the second round, 6-4, 6-1, 6- 4 to the Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, ranked No 30. Hrbaty has won all three of his matches against the Russian. Kafelnikov, who was reprimanded by the ATP Tour after suggesting at the Monte Carlo Open that he was not worried about losing at certain tournaments while preparing for a Grand Slam event, has now been defeated in seven of his last 12 matches.

The supposed main event, a second round "grudge match" between Martina Hingis, the world No 1, and Amelie Mauresmo, the Frenchwoman she was perceived to have insulted by called "half a man" during the Australian Open, proved to be only marginally more explosive than handbags at 26 paces. Hingis wielded the mightier blows to win, 6-3, 6-3 after 77 minutes.

Mauresmo, seemed nervous, and contributed 51 unforced errors. Hingis, fit and confident, took control after immediately recovering a break for 2-3 in the opening set. Battle done, the protagonists briefly shook hands.

Results, Digest, page 29

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