Henman finds consistency as Agassi rises to top

Andre Agassi is back on top of the tennis world, and Tim Henman is showing signs of settling more comfortably in his own corner of it. Both men advanced to the semi-finals of the Stella Artois Championships here on a day that saw the departure of Lleyton Hewitt, the title-holder for the past three years.

Hewitt's loss to Sebastien Grosjean, the French sixth seed, 6-3, 6-4, means that the 33-year-old Agassi, a 6-4, 7-5 winner against Xavier Malisse, of Belgium, will replace Hewitt as the world No 1 and be seeded No 1 for Wimbledon a week next Monday.

Henman, who had to save a match point in his opening contest against Davide Sanguinetti, of Italy, and then muddled through his third round match against Cyril Saunier, of France, displayed greater authority and consistency yesterday in defeating Saunier's compatriot, Anthony Dupuis, 6-1, 6-4, in the quarter-finals.

"It's a big step in the right direction," Henman said. It is a timely step, too, if the British No 1 is to complete a tricolour of victories when he duels with Grosjean today for a place in the final. Henman has finished runner-up here for three of the past four years. He has beaten Grosjean in three of their four previous matches.

It is the second time this year that Agassi has overtaken Hewitt as No 1. He eclipsed the Australian after winning the Houston tournament in April, becoming the oldest No 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973. Prior to that, Hewitt had been No 1 for 75 consecutive weeks. He supplanted Agassi again after two weeks.

Agassi, who has only been seeded No 1 at Wimbledon once before, in 1995, was surprised to hear that yesterday's results put him ahead of Hewitt again. "Oh, I am?" he said. "That's nice, but I'm more concerned about being No 1 in my match tomorrow." He plays a fellow American, Andy Roddick, who defeated his compatriot Taylor Dent, 6-3 7-6.

Hewitt, asked about being seeded No 2 to Agassi at Wimbledon, said matter-of-factly, "One's at the top, one's at the bottom." Was it not a matter of pride? "I couldn't care less." Nor did Hewitt fret about falling short of becoming the first player ever to win the Stella four years in a row. "Three in a row at this place is not bad," he said. "Last year's final [against Henman] could have gone either way at 4-3 in the third [set]." There was a certain symmetry to the end of Hewitt's run of success - 17 matches in four years at Queen's, and 17 matches on grass courts since defeating Grosjean in the Davis Cup final in Melbourne in December 2001.

"I would have preferred to get more matches under my belt," the 22-year-old Australian said, "but I have a bit over a week to practise and work on some areas of my game. I don't think I returned that well, and I didn't serve well in a couple of games. I can't remember, since I've been in the top 10, the last time I've lost my serve when I've been 40-0 up." Grosjean, the first to lose serve, for 1-2 in the opening set, immediately had Hewitt at 0-40 in the fourth game. The Australian clawed back five break points before Grosjean converted a sixth. The 25-year-old from Marseille broke for 4-2 after a game of thrilling rallies, and served out the set after 43 minutes.

In the second set, Grosjean broke for 3-2 and held two break points for 5-2, only for Hewitt to fight back to 4-4. The Australian, as Grosjean acknowledged afterwards, then showed signs of tiredness, a cumulative effect of two tough matches in the previous rounds, and the Frenchman broke decisively for 5-4.

An Australian colleague, Alan Trengove, observed that the 5ft 9in Frenchman, who wore his cap back to front with the peak turned up, was like Napoleon Bonaparte with a racket. In view of all the air strikes in Paris, it's a wonder he did not arrive at Waterloo by Eurostar.

Hewitt, who is susceptible to viral infections, said he "felt pretty good" about his state of health, and was looking forward to defending the Wimbledon title. "Anyone who walks into Wimbledon gets the buzz of the tradition," he said.

Last August, Hewitt walked into Flushing Meadows, New York, to defend the title he won by beating Pete Sampras in straight sets in 2001. "There was a lot of talk about being the defending champion," he said. "After that it was just like going into any other Slam. A semi-final the year after winning it was a pretty good effort."

Grosjean, who missed the grass court season last year because of injury, has been practising here since losing in the second round at the French Open in Paris. He is able to adapt his ground-strokes to all surfaces, and three years ago won the pre-Wimbledon grass court tournament in Nottingham, overcoming opponents as adept on the surface as Wayne Arthurs, Wayne Ferreira, Jonas Bjorkman and Byron Black

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor