Tennis: Henman falls into old familiar traps

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The Independent Online
TIM HENMAN lobbed a ball out of No 2 Court in frustration after losing to Jerome Golmard, 6-4, 7-6, in the third round of the Lipton Championships yesterday, the Frenchman having plotted his downfall just as he did in the first round of the 1998 Australian Open and in quarter-finals of last month's tournament in Dubai. Greg Rusedski, in contrast, advanced to the last 16 after a splendid performance against Germany's Hendrik Dreekman.

Knowing from experience that Golmard is "unorthodox but effective", Henman fell into several traps yesterday. He did not play well until he was a set and a break down, and he allowed his concentration to be broken after recovering to lead 5-2 in the second set.

Golmard played a crucial part in undermining Henman's belief that a third set was in the offing, not least by taking a nine-minute bathroom break after the seventh game of the second set (the players' lounge was some 80 yards from the court). On his return, the Frenchman won four of the next five games to force the tie-break. He then won the shoot out, 9-7, after Henman had created a set point at 7-6.

It will do little for the British No 1's peace of mind to learn that Golmard was ready to withdraw from the tournament until treatment to a neck injury half an hour before the match enabled him to play. "My neck cracked from time to time, but it was not too bad," Golmard said, adding that crowd of people had slowed his progress to the bathroom, "but I didn't dash."

Henman, while acknowledging that "if you have to go, you have to go", said the bathroom break "interrupted the rhythm from my point of view". He conceded, however, that the match did not have a great deal of rhythm "from a tennis point view". His reluctance to attack the net in the early part of the match did not help his cause, although a tricky wind put a premium on potent serving. Having reached the semi-finals here last year, losing to Marcelo Rios who went on to win the final and become the world No 1, Henman will lose ranking points and that could jeopardise his position at No 6.

Rusedski coped with the conditions masterfully earlier on No 4. Nor did the British No 2 did not allow a familiar face in the umpire's chair to put him off his stroke as he swept to a 6-3, 6-4 win against Dreekmann.

Norm Chryst was the official who rushed to Rusedski's aid after the big-serving left-hander fell and damaged his ankle at Queen's Club, London, two weeks before Wimbledon last June. The injury denied Rusedski from making a serious challenge at the All England Club and put a severe dent in his season.

Yesterday, apart from one or two quizzical glances at the umpire over line calls, Rusedski hardly put a foot wrong on No 2 Court here. He served brilliantly, nine aces underlining the efficiency of a performance in which he conceded more than one point in only one of his 10 service games, his last when Rusedski had to save a break point after leading 30-0. Dreekmann, who beat Rusedski in straight sets at the US Open in 1996, could not extend the world No 13 to a third set here, hitting a backhand return over the baseline as the match ended after 62 minutes. "I thought I played really solid from beginning to end," Rusedski said. "Things are going well."

Rusedski now plays Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, who defeated Pat Rafter, 7-6, 6-4. "Kiefer's beaten Pat two tournaments running," Rusedski noted, "and that's impressive form for anybody."

Such was Rusedski's domination of Dreekmann that most of the noise emanated from the nearby No 1 Court, where Alex Corretja, the No 4 seed, struggled to contain Paraguay's Ramon Delgado. Corretja avoided joining Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic and Mark Philippoussis, who lost to Russia's Marat Safin, on the sidelines.

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