Henman and Co leave centre stage to the true Masters

Tim Henman is back in London with his wife, Lucy, preparing for the birth of their second child. Marat Safin is taking a holiday in the Caribbean. Andy Roddick is in Austin, practising on clay for the Davis Cup final in Spain.

Tim Henman is back in London with his wife, Lucy, preparing for the birth of their second child. Marat Safin is taking a holiday in the Caribbean. Andy Roddick is in Austin, practising on clay for the Davis Cup final in Spain.

All three players have reasons to remember the Masters Cup, having left the stage to Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt for the final.

Henman won only one of his three group matches, against Guillermo Coria, of Argentina, who struggled to serve with authority in his first tournament for four months after shoulder surgery.

None the less, Henman finished the season as the world No 6, the highest year-end ranking of his career. He did not win a title, but advanced to the semi-finals at both the French Open and the US Open.

Safin, who defeated Henman, 6-2, 7-6, on Friday night to reach the semi-finals, went on to feature in a record-equalling tie-break against Federer, the world No 1 and defending champion, on Saturday.

Federer prevailed, 20-18, in spite of a questionable call on his third match point, at 10-9, and an over-rule on his fifth match point, at 12-11, to complete a 6-3, 7-6 victory. The Russian, who held six set points, hit a forehand long on Federer's eighth match point. The 38-point shoot-out lasted 26 minutes and 38 seconds.

"Unfortunately, I was a little bit nervous," Safin said. "I was rushing too much. But I didn't make any huge mistakes." Safin, the winner of both the Madrid Masters and the Paris Masters en route to Houston, ended the season at No 4 in the world - 85 places higher than he stood in January.

Roddick, the third player to hit more than 1,000 aces in a season since the ATP Tour started in 1990, was swatted by Hewitt, 6-3, 6-2, after only 58 minutes, the Australian winning the last 20 points in a row.

The American, whose net play had drawn admiration in his three group matches, resorted to panic volleys to knock Hewitt off his stride, but nothing Roddick did could staunch the flow of points against him.

So severe was the beating that many observers wondered if Roddick was carrying an injury, but no mention was made of an ailment. "It's plain and simple: I didn't play well," Roddick said. "Lleyton makes you play at a certain level to beat him, and I feel far short of that today."

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