Delgado gives creditable performance in defeat to Safin

Jamie Delgado recovered from a nightmare start to give Marat Safin a serious challenge in the President's Cup in Tashkent yesterday, before eventually being defeated.

Jamie Delgado recovered from a nightmare start to give Marat Safin a serious challenge in the President's Cup in Tashkent yesterday, before eventually being defeated.

The 23-year-old from Birmingham was broken in the first game of the match, but fought back before falling to a creditable 6-4, 6-4 defeat against the new US Open champion.

Delgado's run to the quarter-finals, after coming through three qualifying matches, equalled his best-ever performance in an ATP Tour event. But he was clearly a huge underdog against the precocious 20-year-old Russian and fears of an embarrassing defeat grew when he lost his opening service game.

Delgado broke back in the eighth game of the match to level at 4-4, but his concentration wandered as he was immediately broken again and Safin then closed out the set.

Delgado fought back from a break down in the second set to level at 3-3, but the pattern of the first set was repeated as Safin again broke and closed out the match in one hour and 14 minutes.

Tim Henman's hopes of winning Britain an Olympic medal suffered a setback when the draw for the men's singles landed him in a tough quarter that includes Safin.

The Briton was not the only man to pull out a short straw, however. The men's doubles draw produced a gasp from the audience at the Sydney Opera House when Australia's Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, the most successful doubles players in the world, were scheduled to meet another extremely talented partnership, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes of India, in the second round.

If Henman is to keep his appointment with Safin, he must first get through a tough first-round match with Karol Kucera, of Slovakia, and a projected third-round meeting with Michael Chang.

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, the fourth seed, who is seen as Safin's most likely rival for domination of men's tennis over the next decade, was lined up to face either Henman or Safin at the semi-final stage.

The Great Britain team manager, Roger Taylor, reacting to Henman's draw, described the meeting with Kucera as "a tough opener".

"It will not be easy for him," said Taylor, "but Tim likes the Olympic experience. He always plays well for Great Britain, whether at the Davis Cup or the Olympic Games."

The father and coach of rising Australian player Jelena Dokic will be able to watch his daughter play in Sydney, despite being banned from the women's tour for six months. But he will have to buy a ticket.

Australian officials would not accredit Damir Dokic, who was escorted out of Wimbledon and the US Open this year after arguments, as his daughter's coach for the Olympics.

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