Tennis: Henman undone by his unforced errors

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The Independent Online
There were no trumpets for Tim Henman in the old Louis Armstrong Stadium at the United States Open here yesterday. The 20-year-old from Oxford, who seemed subdued from the start, was out-played in the second round by South Africa's Wayne Ferriera.

Barely recognisable as the player who quelled the fifth-seeded Thomas Muster in the new Arthur Ashe Stadium in the opening round, Henman was despatched, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 34 minutes. The second set flashed by in 23 minutes, Ferreira winning five of the games to love.

Ferreira, in contrast to Muster the fiery baseliner, has a game akin to Henman's serve and volley. While Henman was able to unsettle Muster by attacking the net at every opportunity, Ferreira was more of a match in every sense.

"It was the contrasting styles that I struggled with the most," a disappointed Henman said afterwards, adding that Ferreira's world ranking of No 55 "is not where he belongs".

At the same time, Henman acknowledged his own shortcomings on a day when he made 35 unforced errors and was never able to impose his attributes. "When I'm good, I'm great; when I'm bad, I'm awful. I played a great match Wednesday. I've had too many highs and lows. Both David [Felgate, his coach] and I am aware of that. It's not something I'm going to allow to continue."

The 25-year-old Ferreira is a top-tenner who has been through a lean time. He will have noted that there is no longer a seed on his path to the quarter-finals - Pat Rafter, No 13, being the only prospective seeded challenger in the last eight since Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No 3, fell to Australia's Marke Woodforde.

A year ago, Henman reached the fourth round before losing to Stefan Edberg, one of the greatest serve-volleyers the game has ever seen.

Greg Rusedski is still flying the British flag and enjoying every minute of it. Having had to make do wih a walk-on part at each of his previous three visits to the US Open, he was determined not to allow himself to become overly frustrated by delays.

He took Thursday's rain in his stride. "I walked outside. I walked up and down the stairs about 50 times, going back and forth to the restaurant. Then I went to practise about three or four times, and every time I walked outside it was raining. I got here at 9.45 in the morning and didn't start my match until seven in the evening."

Rusedski reminded himself that his opponent, Marcos Ondruska, was in the same boat, or locker-room, and, as an adoptive Briton, he thought of Wimbledon, where the modern game and rain delays were invented.

"You're going to start off a little tighter and find it harder to get going in the beginning," Rusedski reasoned. So when the call to action came, the British No 1 remained patient, serving his way to a tie-break and then unsettling his South African opponent, 7-3.

From there, Rusedski's confidence expanded to the level of his first- round victory against David Wheaton, and his advance continued, 7-6, 6- 4, 6-1. A total of 21 aces obviously helped, but before the finish Rusedski was flaunting his backhand again.

Rusedski's third-round opponent is Germany's Jens Knippschild, ranked No 100 in the world but not to be underestimated, as he demonstrated by defeating Henman in straight sets in the third round of the Stella Artois Championships at London's Queen's Club in June.

"I've never played him before, but I got a preview at Queen's a little bit. He must be playing well, he beat [Dinu] Pescariu in straight sets." Pescariu being the Romanian, who eliminated the fourth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic in the opening round here.

Sam Smith was unable to extend the British presence in the women's singles beyond a second-round match against Conchita Martinez. The Spanish No 7 seed eased through, 6-1, 6-0. Smith none the less deserves credit for working her way though qualifying and winning her opening match against Australia's Nicole Pratt.

Further evidence of the teenage influence on the women's game came in the form of Mirjana Lucic, the tall, 15-year-old Croat who frequently practises with Martina Hingis, the 16-year-old world No 1. Lucic, who swept past an American newcomer, Aubrie Rippner, 6-0, 6-1, will play Jana Novotna in the third round. "I've heard quite a lot about her," the third- seeded Novotna said. "Basically, I'm looking for a challenge."

Mary Pierce, who advanced to meet Monica Seles in the fourth round, was puzzled when Natasha Zvereva, her opponent yesterday, was not disqualified after striking a ballgirl with a ball hit in frustration, a la Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 1995.

"That's a default, it's in the rule book," Pierce said to the umpire when play was interrupted and Zvereva had been given a warning. "He said it was up to the referee," Pierce said afterwards.

Results, Digest, page 27