Tennis: Henman gets his year off to a flying start

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TOP SEED Tim Henman made a winning start to 1999 with a first- round victory over Sjeng Schalken in the Qatar Open in Doha yesterday.

The British No 1 had a couple of nervous moments early on but saved two break points in the third game and then cruised past the Dutchman 6-2, 6-3. Henman, who now faces Younes El Aynaoui following the Moroccan's 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, will confront Greg Rusedski if both Britons win through to the final.

Henman admitted he needed to build on the winning momentum at the end of 1998 with the Australian Open later this month. He played in the ATP World Championship finals in Hanover and started this season ranked No 7 in the world.

"It was the best possible start to the new year," Henman said. "I was pleased with the way last year ended, and since then I have had a good chance to work on things in London."

Greg Rusedski may face Goran Ivanisevic, who did well to survive 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 against patient fellow left-hander Francisco Clavet. The sixth- seeded Thomas Johansson went out in the first round to the Czech Daniel Vacek while the No 7-rated Cedric Pioline beat Juan Antonio Marin of Costa Rica.

The Australian teenager Lleyton Hewitt upset Nicolas Kiefer 7-5, 6-4 yesterday to launch his defence of the Adelaide men's hardcourt title he won from nowhere a year ago.

"I felt a fair bit of pressure going out there today," he said, admitting he faced a difficult progression, with the dual US Open winner and top seed Pat Rafter of Australia and former world No 1 Jim Courier among this year's line-up. A year ago, Hewitt beat Andre Agassi and countryman Jason Stoltenberg to become, at 550, the lowest-ranked singles winner in ATP tour history.

Earlier, the former French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty, Stoltenberg and fellow Australians Michael Tebbutt and Scott Draper advanced to the second round as courtside temperature hovered at around 40C for much of the day.

Hrbaty celebrated his 21st birthday with a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat of Mariano Puerta. As a balmy evening brought some relief, Sweden's Thomas Enqvist fought back to beat the Australian Mark Woodforde, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. Stoltenberg beat Arnaud Di Pasquale of France in the heat to win 6-1 6-4, while Draper had a tougher battle against the American Justin Gimelstob before winning, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3.