Tennis: Confident Henman crushes Rios
Wednesday 25 November 1998
Henman's victory against the Chilean left-hander here last night, 7-5, 6-1, was in their opening round-robin contest of the tournament. But the result, and the manner of it, may signal the end of Rios' duel with Pete Sampras for the No 1 ranking and drive the American to a record sixth consecutive year at the top.
Rios has been carrying injuries, particularly to his back, for months. But when the he decided he was fit to make the trip from Santiago, Henman could do no more than make sure that his serve was solid enough to punish his opponent and that his groundstrokes gave Rios little scope for optimism.
Henman conceded only five points on his serve in the first set and nine in the second set. Rios, who showed signs of a limp during the ninth game, appeared to lose heart after losing the opening set on the first break point of the match.
The first indication that Rios was there for the taking came when he misjudged a backhand return that Henman flighted to his forehand on the opening point of the 12th game.
Rios allowed the ball to pass him, and gave a despairing look when it landed in the corner. He then hit a forehand over the baseline and netted a forehand after Henman returned a second serve. Henman then teased a mistake on the set point by playing a clever backhand down the line after retrieving a lob.
Henman compounded Rios's discomfort by saving the only break point against him, in the third game of the second set, with a superb angled forehand volley, and then broke for 3-1 with a backhand to the corner and a forehand down the line.
Boos and jeers accompanied Rios's tentative play in the concluding games, in contrast to the rousing greeting he had received from knots of Chilean supporters when he arrived on court.
"To beat Henman, you've got to be 100 per cent," said Rios, who had won their two previous matches, in Key Biscayne and Rome, this year. "My back is really bad," he added. "I'm going to see how I wake up tomorrow. I want to play, but the body is the one that's stopping me right now."|
Henman said: "Whether he is injured or not, I felt really confident with my own game, and felt I had a good chance whoever I was playing."
Rios is not the only contender who will be checking aches and pains this morning. Andre Agassi practised for half an hour yesterday, but was still not certain whether he would be able to risk his suspect back against Alex Corretja, of Spain, today. Rusedski is on standby as the substitute.
The tournament continued yesterday where it left off a year ago, with Sampras dispatching Yevgeny Kafelnikov in straight sets. Their last match, 12 months ago, was in the final. Kafelnikov, undeterred after losing yesterday's opening round-robin contest, 6-2, 6-4, boldly predicted a reunion with the world No 1 next Sunday.
"I'm almost 100 per cent certain that I'm going to play in the final against Sampras," the Russian said, promising to stay on course by winning his next two matches, against Carlos Moya and Karol Kucera.
Sampras smiled benignly when told Kafelnikov's scenario. "I'm not looking that far ahead," he said. "Yevgeny, I'm sure, has planned out the whole draw at this point. I'm concerned about my match tomorrow. For him to say, 'I'm in the final', is a bit... put it this way, I wouldn't say something like that."
The second round-robin contest had the crowd cheering and stamping their feet as Moya recovered from a set down to defeat Kucera, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3, after two hours and 28 minutes.
TODAY'S ORDER OF PLAY (from 1pm GMT): A Agassi (US) v A Corretja (Sp); P Sampras (US) v C Moya (Sp); K Kucera (Slovak) v Y Kafelnikov (Rus).
Latest in Sport
Kevin Garside: Manchester United may have history and tradition but, as David Moyes never realised, a big-time manager always bends such things to his will
Louis van Gaal denies problem with Wilfried Zaha despite Manchester United forward being given no game time
Calum Chambers: Who is Arsenal's £16m right-back target?
Manchester United latest: Angel Di Maria move no closer as Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing
Arsenal transfer news: Versatile Calum Chambers is a 'gamble', admits Arsene Wenger as Arsenal spending passes £50m
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...
£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...
£200 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Accountant, Reconciliations, Bristo...
£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...