Tennis: Britons upbeat Down Under

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The Independent Online


Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski both caused upsets yesterday as they advanced to the second round of the Peters International tournament in Sydney, a warm-up for the Australian Open which starts on Monday. Only two seeded players now remain in the men's draw.

Henman's unexpectedly easy 6-4, 6-2 victory over Mark Philippoussis, ranked 39th in the world, was the more noteworthy of the two British successes, especially since his teenage opponent has been widely acclaimed as the best prospect for Australian tennis since Pat Cash. Henman, whose world ranking of 95 meant that he had to play through the qualifying tournament in Sydney, was understandably upbeat after his triumph.

"I don't know if I outsmarted him, but his game can sometimes become a little one-dimensional," Henman said of Philippoussis. "I think that was really the first time I played as well as I can play." Henman believed that Philippoussis, whose game has been perhaps unfairly criticised for being based solely on power, may have felt the pressure of Australian expectation.

Meanwhile the Montreal-born Rusedski, currently ranked 38th in the world, won a heavy-hitting first-round match in two tie-break sets against the No 2 seed, Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands. The Dutchman, ranked No 11 in the world, was less consistent than the Briton, and although he recovered Rusedski's break of serve for 3-1 in the seventh game of the first set, he played a disastrous tie- break to fall to an unrecoverable 6-0 deficit, and finally lost the match 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (8-6). "The bottom line is that I gave him [Rusedski] too many free points, and it's tough to win a match like that," Krajicek said.

These two victories provide optimism about the season to come for British tennis, and more immediately about the the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year. "In the last 10 or 15 years we have suffered," Henman said. "We've relied only on Jeremy Bates, but with Greg and I playing better, hopefully we can put British tennis back on the map."

Marc Rosset withdrew with a broken finger, having punched an advertising hoarding in last weekend's Hopman Cup final, but the top seed, Goran Ivanisevic, went through with a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win over Germany's David Prinosil. The sixth seed Jan Siemerink and the seventh seed Alberto Costa were both beaten: by Sebastian Lareau, of Canada, and Mark Woodforde, of Australia, respectively. The other two seeds, Arnaud Boetsch of France and the Chilean Marcelo Rios, lost on Monday.

In the women's event, the eighth seed, Naoko Sawamatsu of Japan, who reached the quarter-finals of last year's Australian Open, held off four match points to overcome Switzerland's Martina Hingis 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, while the Belgian Dominique Monami went through 7-6, 6- 3 over a qualifier, Veronika Martinek of Germany. Her reward is a second- round match against the top seed and three-times champion, Monica Seles.