Tennis: Henman battles past Bruguera

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The Independent Online
Tim Henman yesterday admitted turning to sleeping pills to combat the effects of jet-lag, but there continues to be nothing weary about his superb recent form.

Henman defeated the double French Open champion, Sergi Bruguera, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to progress to the quarter-finals of the Sydney International and maintain a superb start to 1997.

A second straight appearance in a final is now a realistic target for the determined British No 1 who is now ranked No 24 in the world.

Henman reached the final of the Qatar Open in Doha on Sunday where he lost to the former world No 1 Jim Courier, achieving his New Year's resolution of competing in a tour final in 1997 at the earliest possible opportunity.

And despite a punishing travel schedule from the Middle East, the 22- year-old is only two victories away from a second chance to claim his first ATP Tour victory.

Henman attributed his battling success against Bruguera to mastering his serve in the tricky windy conditions. "I am probably serving a little bit better than I was 12 months ago, with a little bit more experience," Henman said.

"So when there were really big points to be played I was able to come out and win those points. That translates as me winning the match in the end instead of Sergi."

Henman, who now faces American Alex O'Brien in the last eight today, is confident of success. "You have got to definitely believe in yourself and whenever I am playing a match now I do believe that I have got a chance against most players," he said. "It's just a question of concentrating and playing your own game, and hopefully that's enough."

O'Brien will provide another stiff test, however, having also enjoyed recent success on the ATP tour, rising from 285th in the world rankings last July to 37th in the latest list. He beat Henman in their only previous meeting, at Manchester in the summer of 1994.

Goran Ivanisevic, the top seed, overcame the hiccup of only winning four second set points to beat Spain's Javier Sanchez in Sydney. The big-serving Croat, ranked No 3 in the world, won through to the quarter-finals 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 after struggling against a gusting wind and meeting stiff resistance from the world No 38.

In the women's event, Jennifer Capriati moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Canada's Rene Simpson.

Pete Sampras, the world No 1, showed that he is in the mood to win a second Australian Open title when he beat Michael Stich in straight sets at the Colonial Classic exhibition tournament in Melbourne yesterday.

Sampras, refreshed after a five-week break, beat the German 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the eight-man tournament, the final warm-up competition before the Australian Open which starts on Monday.

Boris Becker, who ended 1996 with five titles, a place in the final of the ATP Tour Championship and a victory in the Grand Slam Cup, made a slow start before winning his first-round match 7-6, 6-1 against Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine. Becker trailed 2-5 in the opening set before winning in 90 minutes.