Tennis: Henman's nemesis strikes

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JUST WHEN the local expat population was getting to like the idea of Tim Henman coursing through the Dubai Duty Free Open, the British No 1's form dipped in the fourth round. To make matters worse, Henman's defeat, 7-6, 7-5, was at the hands of Jerome Golmard, the French left- hander who ruined his start to last year.

Golmard, who eliminated Henman in the first round of the 1997 Australian Open - 11-9 in the fifth set of the longest match in the tournament - was again in stubborn mode, and Henman duly gave him credit for raising his game way above a world ranking of No 61. "He's an underrated player," Henman said, "unorthodox, but effective."

Henman, the No 3 seed, thought he had the lithe Frenchman's measure after beating him in straight sets in Tokyo last April. "When he beat me in Melbourne, I stayed back, but I was aggressive when I beat him in Tokyo, so I felt I had to be aggressive tonight. It was down to a couple of points here and there. I won them yesterday [against Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman], but not today."

The Frenchman forced the only break point of the first set in the opening game. Henman managed to take Golmard to deuce in each of the Frenchman's first three service games but was unable to produce the finishing touch.

A Henman drive was deflected wide by the net cord on the first point of the tie-break, but Golmard then missed a forehand attempting a backhand for 3-1. Henman temporarily led, 3-2, thanks to the ninth of his 12 aces, but was then wrong-footed and netted an improvised shot behind his back. Henman missed two backhand volleys and netted a backhand drive to give Golmard three set points at 6-3. The Frenchman missed the first, hitting a backhand long, but converted the second with a forehand drive to win the shoot-out, 7-4, after 64 minutes.

Although disappointed with the course of the match, Henman continued to probe for openings. He was unable to take any of three break points at 2-1 in the second set, but did break for 3-2. This failed to dent Golmard's confidence. The Frenchman immediately broke back for 3-3 and saved a break point in the next game.

The contest seemed about to turn after Golmard double-faulted to give Henman an opportunity to serve for set at 5-4, but he double-faulted himself to 30-40 and then hit a forehand wide after Golmard put his racket on a second serve. Golmard dropped only one point in the last two games, breaking to love to win after one hour and 55 minutes. He now plays Carlos Moya, the No 2 seed, who defeated his Spanish compatriot Felix Mantilla , 7-6, 6-2.

Henman rued his missed opportunities, but offered only one excuse - "the fact that the conditions were heavy and humid made the balls heavier, which gave [Golmard] more time" - before turning his attention to the forthcoming tournaments in Rotterdam and Battersea.

The Australian coach Bob Brett has been the mentor to some volatile characters in his time - Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Andrei Medvedev - and his latest client, Nicolas Kiefer, is no exception. Kiefer's progress to the semi-finals has been eventful, although Brett would probably choose a different word. On the way to eliminating Albert Costa, the Spanish No 6 seed, in the second round, 6-3, 7-6, Kiefer squandered a 4-0 lead in the second set, and Brett walked out of the stadium when the 21-year- old German threw a tantrum.

Yesterday Brett stayed the course, but was pleased to have brought a coat with him as Kiefer's quarter-final against the Spaniard Francisco Clavet stretched over three hours and five minutes, starting in the afternoon sun and finishing under floodlights, at 7-6, 6-7, 6-2.

The German confined himself to one outburst - tossing his racket, the balls and his towel, incurring a code violation when he lost the second set tie-break.

Kiefer's semi-final opponent is Andrew Ilie, the Romanian-born Australian, who advanced to the last four by defeating Gustavo Kuerton, the Brazilian former French Open champion, 6-4, 6-4.

n Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis overpowered their second-round opponents to reach the quarter-finals of the Sybase Open in San Jose. Sampras beat the Argentinian Martin Rodriguez, 7-5, 6-3, while Philippoussis thrashed Dutchman John Van Lottum, 6-2, 6-1.