Tennis: Henman's Hanover hope

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The Independent Online
HAVING SHUNTED Tim Henman off the road to Hanover yesterday, Richard Krajicek immediately revived the British No 1's prospects by saying he was not certain to go to the ATP Tour Championship on 24 November even if he qualifies for one of the eight places.

The Dutchman may forego Hanover to have an operation to repair a torn cartilage in his left knee. Otherwise he would not have enough time to recover for the Australian Open in January.

Krajicek overtook Henman in eighth place by defeating Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final of the $2.45m Eurocard Open, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Henman drops to ninth place, 131 points behind Krajicek, who is only one point adrift of the seventh-placed Karol Kucera, of Slovakia.

"I really have to decide what I find more important," Krajicek said. "Do I find a Grand Slam more important, or do I find it more important to go to a tournament [Hanover] that you have to qualify for the whole year? If I qualify for Hanover and postpone the operation, then I cannot play Australia. So it is not automatic if I qualify for Hanover that I am am going to go to Hanover."

Krajicek intended to discuss the dilemma with his coach, Rohan Goetzke, during their car journey last night from Stuttgart to this week's tournament in Paris. "We have about 600 kilometres to talk about it," Krajicek said.

It was their first serious discussion on the subject. "We decided I was not even in range for making it when I was No 10 but more than 400 points from Tim, who was No 8. Now I am No 8 and have a chance of making it, we have to decide what to do."

Krajicek ended a spectacular week in Stuttgart by serving Kafelnikov into the ground in an hour and 25 minutes for the $376,000 (pounds 235,000) first prize. The Dutchman's confidence was so high after wins against Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic and Pete Sampras that Kafelnikov had to hope to serve well himself and capitalise on any second serves that came his way.

"I tried everything, but Richard dominated me," the Russian said. Krajicek, who hit 21 aces, conceded only 14 points in his 14 service games, seven of which were held to love. The three points Kafelnikov won off his opponent's serve in the opening set came in the last game. Krajicek was also taken to deuce on his first service game in the second set. Otherwise he was never in danger.

Krajicek's semi-final win against Sampras, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, was his fifth in seven matches against the world No 1. "He seems to play with no fear against me," Sampras said. The disappointed American was not helped by double-faulting twice to lose the second set and double-faulting for 2- 4 in the third set tie-break.

Henman, who played poorly in two tie-breaks in losing in three sets against the American Jan-Michael Gambill in the third round, is drawn to play Kafelnikov in the third round in Paris.

If Henman is successful, Marcelo Rios, the world No 2, is a probable quarter-final opponent. The Chilean withdrew from a quarter-final against Kafelnikov here last Friday because after pulling a hip muscle playing football. Rios, who has also been troubled by back spasms, may be among the doubts among those who have already qualified for Hanover.

Krajicek may feel a sense of deja vu in Paris, He is projected to play Agassi in the third round, with Pat Rafter or Invanisevic expected to be waiting in the quarter-finals, and Sampras a possible semi-final opponent.

As Krajicek and his coach left for Paris last night, stragglers were leaving an all-day celebration at the Mercedes Benz Forum here in honour of the engine they built for Mika Hakkinen's world championship McLaren.

They will be interested to learn that the Formula One's commissioner, Bernie Ecclestone, plans to spread his influence to the world of tennis. A friend of the tennis entrepreneur Ion Tiriac, the promoter of the Stuttgart event, Ecclestone wants to run a tennis world championship.

Ecclestone professes to know little about the way tennis organisations work, and that could be a major obstacle when it comes to persuading Wimbledon and the three other Grand Slam tournaments that his plan for a Formula One of the courts is viable.

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