Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. The names go together like Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, or Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis, and if this year's US Open proves to be their last the two best British tennis players of their generation might consider it appropriate that they played each other in the first round.
Last night's result was a harsh confirmation of what has been the story for much of Rusedski's professional life. Whether it has been in competition or in the affections of the British public Henman has usually held the upper hand and so it proved again on a packed Court 11 here.
Henman won 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 55 minutes to complete his seventh successive victory over his fellow countryman. Rusedski has won only two of their 10 meetings, the last of them eight years ago. The two rivals have mellowed over the years but have never been the greatest of friends and did not linger when they shook hands at the end.
In the second round Henman now meets Roger Federer and will be anxious to improve on his performance at the same stage of Wimbledon two months ago, when he won only six games against the world No 1.
Time has been catching up with both Britons, who share the same birthday. Rusedski, who will be 33 next Wednesday, has had a miserable year and is struggling with a hip injury which may need surgery. His world ranking, now at No 136, is such that he will no longer gain direct entry into any of the leading tournaments. It would be no surprise if next month's Davis Cup tie against Ukraine proves to be his swansong.
Henman, 32 next week, maintains that he has a few years left in him yet, but his own ranking has been in decline and back problems are once again threatening his future. Once world No 4 (as was Rusedski), Henman is now ranked No 62.
Both players have been fixtures here for more than a decade. Rusedski, who reached the only Grand Slam final of his career when he lost to Pat Rafter in 1997, has played here every year since 1994. Henman, a semi-finalist two years ago, has not missed a tournament since his debut the following year.
Rusedski started with an ace, broke Henman with a crashing forehand return down the line and soon led 3-0. Henman broke back immediately, however, and took control once he had won the first-set tie-break 7-4. From that stage on, Rusedski never looked entirely comfortable, either on the baseline or at the net.
Henman found a good rhythm on his groundstrokes and although he restricted his forays to the net, Rusedski rarely found a way past him. Henman broke again in the second and last games of the second set and the eighth of the third. Although Rusedski saved one match point with a backhand pass, the backhand which flew wide on the next point to give Henman victory was more representative of his play.
Another Briton to tumble out last night was Josh Goodall, the British No 8, who put up a brave fight against France's Paul-Henri Mathieu but lost 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Federer, the No 1 seed, made a smooth start to his attempt to win a third successive US Open title, dropping only five games against Taipei's Yeu-Tzuoo Wang. David Nalbandian, the No4 seed, had to come back from two sets down to beat Germany's Michael Berrer, the world No 128, but Rafael Nadal, the No 2 seed, had few problems as he beat Mark Philippoussis.
Amélie Mauresmo, the world No 1, won five games in a row to defeat Kristina Barrois, while two former champions had contrasting wins. Martina Hingis recovered from a set down to beat China's Shuai Peng, while Serena Williams dropped only three games in beating Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
Results from Flushing Meadows
First round: T Henman (GB) bt G Rusedski (GB) 7-6 6-2 6-3; P-H Mathieu (Fr) bt J Goodall (GB) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3; M Safin (Rus) bt R Vik (Cz Rep) 6-1 6-1 3-6 6-3; F GONZALEZ (Chile) bt J Vanek (Cz Rep) 6-2 6-3 6-2; F Mayer (Ger) bt S Koubek (Aut) 6-4 6-1 6-1; O ROCHUS (Bel) bt O Patience (Fr) 6-0 6-2 6-2; R Sweeting (US) bt G Coria (Arg) 3-2 ret; L Horna (Peru) bt G Garcia-Lopez (Sp) 7-5 6-4 6-3; R NADAL (Sp) bt M Philippoussis (Aus) 6-4 6-4 6-4; J Hajek (Cz Rep) bt L Dlouhy (Cz Rep) 6-3 6-4 6-4; T BERDYCH (Cz Rep) bt B Pasanski (Serb-M) 6-4 6-2 6-1; S GROSJEAN (Fr) bt T Johansson (Swe) 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-7 6-2; F VERDASCO (Sp) bt F Santoro (Fr) 6-4 6-1 3-6 6-1; J Hernych (Cz Rep) bt K Kim (US) 6-1 6-4 3-6 7-5; D NALBANDIAN (Arg) bt M Berrer (Ger) 4-6 6-7 6-3 7-5 6-2; L HEWITT (Aus) bt A Montanes (Sp) 7-5 6-4 6-3; R FEDERER (Swit) bt Yeu-Tzuoo Wang (Taiw) 6-4 6-1 6-0; G MONFILS (Fr) bt M Russell (US) 6-2 3-6 7-5 7-6; W Moodie (SA) bt M Mirnyi (Bela) 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-7 6-4; L Kubot (Pol) beat K VLIEGEN (Bel) 2-6 6-1 6-4 1-6 6-3; D TURSUNOV (Rus) bt I Kunitsyn (Rus) 6-2 6-3 6-4; R Sluiter (Neth) bt W Odesnik (US) 6-4 6-4 7-5; N Okun (Isr) bt P Starace (It) 6-2 6-0 4-6 6-2.
First round: A IVANOVIC (Serb-M) bt V Dushevina (Rus) 6-3 5-7 6-4; A Bondarenko (Ukr) bt A Rolle (US) 6-4 6-4; A Nakamura (Japan) bt M Czink (Hun) 6-1 6-2; J Gajdosova (Slovak) bt A Glatch (US) 6-2 6-1; E Daniilidou (Gr) bt S Perry (US) 6-0 6-2; A MAURESMO (Fr) bt K Barrois (Ger) 6-1 7-5; A CHAKVETADZE (Rus) bt M Sucha (Slovak) 6-4 6-1; V Kutuzova (Ukr) bt M J Martinez (Sp) 6-3 6-3; M Shaughnessy (US) bt R Vinci (It) 6-3 6-4; V Azarenka (Bela) bt A MYSKINA (Rus) 6-4 6-2; M Santangelo (It) bt L Raymond (US) 7-6 6-2; J Jackson (US) bt T Pironkova (Bul) 6-2 6-2; Y Fedak (Ukr) bt T Poutchek (Bela) 7-5 6-3; V Razzano (Fr) bt M Ani (Est) 7-5 6-4; E Birnerova (Cz Rep) bt G Voskoboeva (Rus) 7-6 5-7 6-3; S Bammer (Aut) bt N DECHY (Fr) 5-7 6-3 6-1; M HINGIS (Swit) bt Shuai Peng (Ch) 4-6 6-1 6-3; D SAFINA (Rus) bt Y Beygelzimer (Ukr) 6-1 6-3; NA LI (Ch) bt M Sanchez Lorenzo (Sp) 4-6 6-3 6-0; M PIERCE (Fr) bt E Vesnina (Rus) 7-5 6-1; S Williams (US) bt L Dominguez (Sp) 6-1 6-2.
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