Tennis: Muster wipes out his bad memories

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Thomas Muster thoroughly enjoyed his first-round match at the Dubai Open last night, which was a picnic in an oasis compared to his experience here a year ago.

On that occasion the Austrian arrived as the newly elevated world No 1, jet-lagged after a Davis Cup tie in South Africa which had been prolonged by rain, and lost in the first round against Sandon Stolle, a "lucky loser" from the qualifying.

The match had been prefaced by insults from the Americans Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi concerning Muster's right to be recognised as No 1 after winning all but two of his titles on clay courts. Muster probably would have taken greater exception to their remarks had he been wider awake after arriving from Johannesburg at 5am.

Yesterday, rested and properly prepared, Muster accounted for Sweden's Tomas Nydahl, 6-4, 6-3, in 81 minutes. The Austrian No 2 seed will now play Martin Sinner, the German qualifier who eliminated Britain's Tim Henman on Monday night.

Henman was not the only one to make a regrettable departure. The Moroccan doubles team of Karim Alami and Hicham Arazi was disqualified by the British umpire, Gerry Armstrong, famed for showing John McEnroe the door at the 1990 Australian Open.

Arazi was warned for ball abuse at the end of the first set against Pablo Albano, of Argentina, and Sweden's Peter Nyborg. Alami was given a penalty point for racket abuse at 15-30 in the last game and again at the end of the game.

Their opponents, who were leading 6-4, 6-7, 6-5, were awarded the match - and Alami and Arazi were automatically disqualified from the singles as well of the doubles, losing a total of $10,630 (pounds 6,600) each, with a fine to come.

The two "lucky losers" to benefit are the Czech David Rikl, who replaces Alami against Stolle, and Hendrik Jan Davids, of the Netherlands, who plays Italy's Renzo Furlan in place of Arazi.

Henman did manage to make a good impression, in spite of losing in the first round of the doubles as well as the singles. The British No 1 at least can boast the distinction of becoming the first player to have his handprints set in plaster, Hollywood fashion, for the creation of a "tennis walk of fame" at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

This act of faith in Henman's future was followed by the laying on of hands by the Spaniard Carlos Moya, another bright prospect, along with the handprints of four established performers, Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek and Thomas Muster. The prints will be placed in a granite star outside the Royal Enclosure.

Becker was the only player to experience difficulty, chiefly because the plaster in his tray had begun to set. The German was again frustrated after moving to a second tray before eventually succeeding in three sets.

Henman caused a slight stir while practising making his prints. He inadvertently put his hands on the frame, which tipped and splashed wet plaster over a press officer.

Life on the court continued to be rather more complicated for Henman, who partnered Pat Cash to a defeat in the doubles against David Nainkin, of South Africa, and Dutchman Rogier Wassen, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.