Tennis: Henman has the breaks

Click to follow
TIM HENMAN'S preparations for the French Open got off to a slow start last night when he took three sets to defeat the Argentinian Mariano Puerta in three sets at the Barcelona Open.

The British No 1 and fifth seed had to go to two tie-breaks in the first two sets, but eventually prevailed against the left-hander 7-6, 6-7, 7- 5. Injuries to the top two seeds, Pete Sampras and Carlos Moya, and early exits by third and fourth seeds Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Alex Corretja mean that Henman is the highest seed remaining in the clay-court event.

Henman's victory in the first meeting between the two means he will now face the Spaniard Francisco Clavet, who beat Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.

Sampras, meanwhile, pulled out of the event complaining of a back injury and returned to the United States for treatment. The world No 1 was hoping to have a good build-up for Roland Garros - the one Grand Slam he has never won. He said he probably suffered the injury during his doubles match with Henman against Paul Haarhuis, of the Netherlands, and Kafelnikov.

"It was cold and damp last night. Maybe I didn't warm up properly. I was looking forward to playing. I was hungry and ready. This year just hasn't been going as planned," he said.

Moya, the second seed, could overtake Sampras by winning the title and he defeated the Spanish qualifier German Puentes 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, but the French Open champion is nursing a blister on his finger and may have to retire.

Kafelnikov, the third seed, was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by the Argentinian Franco Squillari, squandering his chance of unseating Sampras as the world No1.

Results, Digest, page 25