Tennis: Players to debate Korda's case

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PETR KORDA would be brave to defend his Australian Open title after the furore over his positive drugs test, according to the former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.

Korda tested positive for the steroid, nandrolene, last year only to escape a ban after claiming he was unaware of what he had taken. But after a an outcry, sparked partly by Krajicek, the International Tennis Federation plans to challenge its appeals committee for waiving a 12-month ban for class one drug offences.

A compulsory ATP Tour meeting in Melbourne on Saturday, with fines for those players who do not attend, will consider Korda's case. "He's gutsy to come here, I would not have the need to prove myself so much, even if I felt I was not guilty, I would try to just stay in a quiet place," Krajicek said.

In the past week several players, including Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman and the women's No 1 Lindsay Davenport, have expressed concern over the case and the lenient penalty.

The Australian media have in recent days talked of a possible player boycott of the Open over the Korda drugs case, but Krajicek said he did not believe this was a possibility. "I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "He's here to prove himself on the court... As long as he's allowed to play we must treat him like any other player."

Korda, who has vehemently denied knowingly taking the drug, was due to face the Australian media today for the first time this year. He is scheduled to play in the Colonial Classic, a traditional Open warm-up tournament starting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Tim Henman remains at No 7 in the world rankings despite his defeat by the German qualifier, Rainer Schuttler, in the final of the Qatar Open in Doha on Sunday.

In the first official ATP list for 1999, Henman gained a further 122 ranking points to go to 2,742 and move to 137 behind Andre Agassi. Greg Rusedski, despite a disappointing first-round defeat to another German, Bernd Karbacher, at Doha, remains in ninth place.

Henman is playing in an exhibition event in Melbourne this week in preparation for the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. However, his compatriot, Rusedski, will be seeking ranking points at the ATP event at Sydney, where Henman reached the final last year. Rusedski is seeded No 5 in a strong field which includes six of the world top 10 players and will meet Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten, the former French Open champion, in the first round.