Haas dampens Henman's optimism

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The Independent Online

Nobody could fault Tim Henman's assessment of his prospects for the new campaign. "There are hopefully going to be more ups than last year," he said, "but there are going to be bumps on the road, too."

Having started on the up at the Qatar Open in Doha, defeating the third seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets, the British No1 hit his first bump yesterday, losing in the second round to Tommy Haas, of Germany, 6-2, 7-6.

Haas, ranked nine places below Henman in the world at 45, broke twice in the opening set, capitalising on a series of unforced errors. Henman gave a more spirited display in the second set, saving seven match-points to earn the tie-break.

The German produced two brilliant passing shots to win the shoot-out, 7-5, and advance to the last eight. He has now won three of his five matches against Henman.

It was a bad day for seeded players at the Adelaide International, where the American James Blake followed Tommy Robredo, of Spain, and Croatia's Davis Cup hero Mario Ancic out of the tournament. Blake, the fifth seed, lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to the Italian Andreas Seppi. Robredo, the third seed, was defeated by Florent Serra, of France, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. The fourth-seeded Ancic lost to Xavier Malisse, of Belgium, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.

Serena Williams, returning after injury to begin her preparation for the defence of the Australian Open women's singles title, was defeated by Elena Dementieva, of Russia, 6-3, 6-1, at the Champions Challenge in Hong Kong. Williams, playing her first match since September, was on court for less than an hour.

Martina Hingis's comeback continued apace at the Australian Hardcourt Championships on the Gold Coast. The 25-year-old Swiss former world No1 defeated the seventh seed, Klara Koukalova, of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to the quarter-finals. Koukalova, 35th in the world, was outclassed by Hingis, who is back on the WTA Tour after three years in retirement. Hingis next plays Nuria Llagostera Vives, of Spain, who defeated the second seed, Francesca Schiavone, of Italy.

"One thing I realise," Hingis said, "is that some of the girls do have respect for me, and I have to take advantage of it. Maybe my reputation is helping. And the other reason is that they don't know me. They haven't seen me around for three years and they don't know what to expect.

"What pleased me most about the win [against Koukalova] was the winning spirit which got me through," she added. "I really wanted it more than her. We were both pretty flat towards the end. I just had more to give. The anticipation is coming back and every set I'm shaking off the rustiness."

While Hingis enjoys the opening days of her comeback, Kim Clijsters, the US Open champion and world No2, shows no sign of reconsidering her plan to retire at the end of 2007. "When I get older, and if I have kids one day, I would like to be able to still play and have fun with them without having to worry about having a bad knee," Clijsters said yesterday.

The former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash's comeback in the doubles was short-lived at the Chennai Open yesterday. The Australian and Indian Karan Rastogi were beaten 6-2, 6-2 by the second-seeded Germans Rainer Schüttler and Alexander Waske in the first round.

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