Tennis: Henman now to face Brazilian

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The Independent Online
The United States Open was able to set aside all the rows over seedings and torn-up draw sheets when tennis broke out yesterday. It was good to see people hitting shots instead of calling them.

Tim Henman, the British No 1, is delighted to be joining them today, although he will be relieved if the identity of his first-round opponent does not change in the next few hours.

The confusion caused by the draw and the redraw last week continued for Henman last night when it was announced that Mats Wilander had withdrawn from the tournament because of a strained groin. Henman will instead play a lucky loser from the qualifying, Roberto Jabali, of Brazil, who is ranked 19 places above Wilander, at No 157.

Jabali becomes Henman's third named opponent. In the original draw - which was scrapped when it was discovered that the seeds had been slotted in afterwards - paired the Briton against Russia's Andrei Olhovskiy, who defeated Henman at the Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club in the build-up to Wimbledon.

The 32-year-old Wilander came into the equation when the second draw was made, and Henman was looking forward to pitting his skills against the experience of a player whose stellar year, 1988, saw him complete three Grand Slam singles triumphs by beating Ivan Lendl here to become the world No 1.

Yesterday Michael Stich, who would have been among the seeds had not the US Tennis Association been reminded of the Grand Slam rules, advanced to the second round after a difficult match against Tommy Haas, an 18- year-old German compatriot.

Haas, a qualifier ranked No 237 in the world, made an impressive start to his Grand Slam career. He led 2-0 in the fourth set, only for Stich to recover his form, forget a sore shoulder, and win 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 7- 5.

Only a fortnight ago, Haas reached the quarter-finals of his first professional tournament, having been given a wild card for the ATP Tour event in Indianapolis. He lost to the best - Pete Sampras.

Born in Munich, Haas is based at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. "I believe Tommy has the potential to be as good as, or better than, any player ever to come out of the academy - and that inludes Andre Agassi," Bollettieri said.

Two seeds fell early in the women's singles. Germany's Anke Huber (No 6) was defeated by the South African Amanda Coetzer, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, and Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva (No 12) lost to Aleksandra Olsza, of Poland, the 1995 Wimbledon junior champion, 6-4, 6-4.

Martina Hingis opening proceedings on the Stadium Court, defeating Angeles Montolio, of Spain, 6-1, 6-0. And the tournament heralded another 15-year- old, the Russian Anna Kournikova marking her debut in a Grand Slam with a victory against the Czech Ludmila Richterova, 7-6, 6-3.

Militancy seems to go with the territory here at Flushing Meadows, which experienced many a chill from the Cold War during its time as the temporary headquarters of the United Nations.