Britons hit form for US Open

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The Independent Online

Britain's leading players are in fine form in the warm-up to the US Open later this month. Tim Henman made short work of reaching the last eight of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis when he thrashed Mariano Zabaleta, of Argentina, 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday. At the Washington Classic, Greg Rusedski has made solid progress and is due to meet Andre Agassi in the quarter-finals.

Henman, the sixth seed, will now face the top seed, Gustavo Kuerten, who earlier defeated Ivan Ljubicic, of Croatia, 7-6, 6-4. Henman has a 2-1 lead over the world No 1 in their career meetings. Kuerten, who recorded 17 aces against Ljubicic, beat the British No 1 in the quarter-finals in Cincinnati last week.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Henman. "There's no question that he's the best player in the world right now. We've had tough matches in the past. It's good to put yourself up against the best."

Henman came into the match against the 110th-ranked Zabaleta trailing the Argentinian 3-2 in their previous matches. "I must admit I though it would be tougher," the Briton said. "He's someone I had trouble with in the past.

"It's a combination that I'm playing really well and he's struggling with his game and not as consistent as he's been in the past.

Agassi needed just 56 minutes to beat Fernando Vicente, of Spain, 6-2, 6-2 and advance to the quarter-finals in Washington. He was then due to meet Rusedski, the British No 2, who eased to a 7-6, 6-3 win over the No 12 seed, Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador.

The last time Rusedski and Agassi met, at the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles earlier in the summer, Rusedski took the American to three sets. Agassi went on to win the title.

''It will be fun," said Rusedski of the meeting. ''I think Andre is very motivated to play well here and establish himself as a contender for the US Open."

The reigning US Open champion, Marat Safin, who has been struggling with injury and a dip in form, played an "almost perfect" second set in beating the 16th seed, Tommy Robredo, of Spain, 7-6, 6-1, in Indianapolis. Safin, the No 2 seed, then defeated the eighth-seeded Thomas Enqvist in the quarter-finals, 7-5, 6-4.

The Wimbledon champion, Goran Ivanisevic, hit 19 aces in a 7-5, 7-5 defeat of the seventh-seeded Arnaud Clement to set up a quarter-final with Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco, who beat the No 3 seed, Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

The Belarussian Max Mirnyi saved seven match points to edge past Jonas Bjorkman, of Sweden, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6. In the quarter-finals he will meet Pat Rafter of Australia. The fifth-seeded Rafter, who has reached the final of his last three tournaments – Wimbledon, Montreal and Cincinnati – won 6-4, 6-4 against Kristian Pless of Denmark.

In the women's event in Canada, the top seed, Jennifer Capriati, and the four-times champion, Monica Seles, reached the quarter-finals with comfortable victories in the Rogers AT&T Cup yesterday.

Seles, the fifth seed, was to meet the Wimbledon finalist and No 2 seed, Justin Henin of Belgium, and Capriati was to face her fellow American Meghann Shaughnessy later in the day.

Several third-round matches were postponed yesterday morning after the afternoon and night sessions had been rained out on Thursday.

Capriati defeated Wynna Prakusya, of Indonesia, 7-6, 6-2. Seles, playing in her fourth tournament in four weeks, overcame the 10th-seeded Jelena Dokic, of Yugoslavia, 6-3, 7-6.

* The former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek and last year's French Open finalist Magnus Norman have withdrawn from the US Open, the organisers said yesterday. Krajicek has been out of action for several months with an elbow injury and Norman has a persistent hip injury.

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