Henman discovers antidote to Arazi

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Tim Henman was impressive in the sun yesterday, beating the Moroccan Hicham Arazi to reach the second round of the Hamburg Masters Series.

The British No 1 fell to 11th in the Champions Race after reaching only the second round in Rome last week, but he deservedly beat the flashy Arazi 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 29 minutes. "It's one of my best clay-court wins," said Henman after conquering his 26-year-old opponent.

Arazi, who is based in Monte Carlo, is renowned as one of the finest shot-makers in the game, but Henman more than matched him from the back of the court. The Oxford-born player's only defeat in his prior five meetings with Arazi had come on the same court in Hamburg in this event two years ago. Henman was understandably happy to put that ghost to rest. "To get revenge on the same court is very satisfying," he continued. "He's a very good clay-court player, but playing someone with his mentality you never know what to expect."

With Arazi 5-2 up in the second set, Henman would have expected to have been forced into a decider. But the Moroccan let his fiery temperament get to him and Henman reeled off five successive games, with Arazi becoming increasingly incensed with himself. "He definitely helped me in the last five games," Henman said with a grin, acknowledging that he was playing a risky game by allowing Arazi to open his shoulders and play some shots. "I had to give him the opportunity to make some unforced errors."

Henman's next opponent will be the Frenchman Jerome Golmard, who beat the German Marc-Kevin Göllner 6-3, 6-1.

One player Henman will not be meeting here this week is Goran Ivanisevic, who joined Andre Agassi in deciding not to enter the draw. "Maybe I should spend a few weeks in prison and gather my thoughts there," the three-times Wimbledon finalist said. The former world No 2 has dropped outside the top 60 after a series of dismal defeats and now has to go through qualifying in major events.

Agassi gave no reason for withdrawing, although it is thought that he simply needs a break before starting the defence of his French Open title at the end of this month. The German press has been speculating that his relationship with Steffi Graf has run into trouble.

In Rome, meanwhile, Jennifer Capriati of the United States bowed out of the Italian open when she lost to Ann-Gaelle Sidot of France, 6-3, 7-5, in an hour and 20 minutes. Capriati, who has not played for two months due to tendinitis in her heel, has only been training for the last couple of weeks and that lack of practice was reflected in her performance.


(number denotes seeding)

(8) T Henman (Gbr) bt H Arazi (Mar) 6-4 7-5, A Pavel (Rom) bt R Federer (Swi) 6-4 6-3, M Zabaleta (Arg) bt G Gaudio (Arg) 6-3 6-3, A Martin (Spa) bt D Vacek (Cze) 6-4 3-6 6-1.