Henman cracks Kiefer in return from injury

Tim Henman put injury behind him to carve out a 7-5, 6-4 first-round victory over Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, in the World Indoor Tournament yesterday.

Tim Henman put injury behind him to carve out a 7-5, 6-4 first-round victory over Nicolas Kiefer, of Germany, in the World Indoor Tournament yesterday.

Henman arrived in Rotterdam after being kept out of action with a chronic back problem since his third-round defeat at last month's Australian Open. He unleashed his full serve and volley repertoire to leave Kiefer, ranked No 24, frustrated in a high-quality contest.

"I really struggled in December and couldn't do the training I would have liked to have done but I feel this is really the start of my season as I was able to play almost pain free for the first time this year," Henman said. He also pointed out the benefit that Pilates has played in his new fitness regime. "I have been working on Pilates-type exercises and have really felt the difference over the past two weeks," Henman said.

Although it took him six points to register on the scoreboard, Henman kept a firm grip on the match by never allowing his opponent to reach break point.

The Argentinian fourth seed David Nalbandian's gamble to hone his skills on the indoor circuit backfired when he lost 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to the Czech Radek Stepanek, who meets Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round.

The former world No 1 Kim Clijsters wasted little time in her comeback from a serious wrist injury, easing past Jelena Kostanic, of Croatia, 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of the Antwerp Open yesterday. "I wanted to play again so badly and I am really surprised everything went so well," Clijsters said. "Physically, I was 100 per cent and I did not have to hold back at all out there."

The Belgian will meet the fifth-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova in the second round.

In Memphis, the US Davis Cup player Mardy Fish needed a third-set tie-break to overcome compatriot James Blake in the first round of the combined ATP and WTA tournament. Fish, seeded No 6, saved a match point before prevailing 6-3, 2-6, 7-6.

In the WTA event, Akiko Morigami, of Japan, eliminated the fourth seed Martina Sucha, of Slovakia, 6-4, 7-5 and Abigail Spears overcame the fifth seed, Mashona Washington, 6-3, 7-5.

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