TENNIS: Krajicek exit brings bonus for Henman

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The Independent Online
TIM HENMAN edged closer to Hanover without hitting a ball last night. The player immediately ahead of him, Richard Krajicek, retired when leading 5-2 in the final set against Marc Rosset at the Paris Open and then announced that he was going to have a knee operation. "The season is over for me," the Dutchman said.

If Henman wins his third round match against Yevgeny Kafelnkov today he will be virtually certain to qualify for the eight-man ATP Tour Championship in Germany on 24 November. The turn of events means that Greg Rusedski also has a chance of going to Hanover. The British No 2 today plays the Australian Jason Stoltenberg, who last night defeated Carlos Moya, the Spanish No 4 seed, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Krajicek, No 8 in the race for Hanover, was involved in an bizarre contest with Rosset. The eccentric Swiss former Olympic champion accused Krajicek of time-wasting during the final set and changed ends without taking a break to underline his point. He then stayed in his chair as Krajicek walked off the court after receiving treatment. Rosset was awarded the match, 6-4, 5-7, 2-5 (ret).

"I was not faking in any way," Krajicek said. "He should have realised the difference, but he was probably upset with himself because he couldn't beat someone playing on one leg."

Henman will be under threat today if Kafelnikov can live up to his tough pre-match talk. Yesterday the Russian prevailed in the second round against Sweden's Magnus Norman, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, after a tense final set.

Kafelnikov, who began the week in 11th position in the race for the last two places in the eight-man finale in Hanover, was happy to play mind games with the ninth-placed Henman on the eve of their third-round match today.

"He is definitely under much more pressure than me," Kafelnikov said. "It is going to be one of the toughest matches he has had in his career.

"Playing in the final of any other ATP Tour tournament is not the same as trying to qualify for Hanover. I am going to try my best to get there. I have played Tim eight times and beaten him five to three. But this time the circumstances are different. Tim is desperate to qualify for Hanover. Before last week in Stuttgart I was far away from qualifying. Now theoretically I can qualify."

After describing Henman as "a very talented player who has no other game but to play aggressively", Kafelnikov agreed that the British No 1 had used his game to good effect since losing to him in the quarter- finals of the Guardian Direct Cup at Battersea. "He's started to win big matches against big players."

The Russian has won his three matches against Henman on carpet courts, in Rotterdam and Lyons in 1996, and this year at Battersea. Henman saved match points to defeat Kafelnikov in the first round at Wimbledon in 1996. Henman has won their three matches on hard courts, in Cincinnati in 1996, in Hanover last year, when the Briton was on a day trip as a substitute, and in the final in Tashkent two months ago.

Petr Korda, No 10 in the race for Hanover at the start of the week, was eliminated after losing to Australia's Mark Philippoussis, 2-6, 6-4, 6- 4. "The first half of the year cost me enormous energy, and I don't have it now," the 30-year-old Czech said. Korda, the Australian Open champion, has decided to continue playing for another year. This time last year he said his career was at "five minutes to midnight". Yesterday he said: "I can make the five minutes last as long as I want. When I decide it gets to midnight, it's bye bye."

Karol Kucera, of Slovakia, No 7 on the road to Hanover, advanced to the third round by defeating Fabrice Santoro, of France, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. Pete Sampras, Marcelo Rios and Pat Rafter, the leading contenders to finish the year as world No 1, all progressed to the third round.