Tim Henman's preparations for the US Open were dealt a blow yesterday as he lost in the second round of the Toronto Masters.
Henman succumbed 7-5, 6-4, to the Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, who produced a wonderful range of groundstrokes from the baseline and relied on his huge serve when in trouble.
Both players held serve early on, but the British No 1 had the first chance to take control with a break point at 2-1 only for Kuerten to pull out his big serve. The fifth seed had two set points at 5-4, but again the Brazilian survived.
Henman approached the net whenever possible and had success chipping and charging and he also made room for inside-out forehands down the line. Yet Kuerten broke him in the next game with some fearsome returns, before taking the set.
Kuerten was now buoyant and signalled his intent with a backhand winner off Henman's first serve of the second set. Henman then double-faulted and had to defend three break-points. The 30-year-old regained his composure and managed to save the break with an ace, a fine volley and some big first serves.
Henman then gifted the break, at 3-2, by missing a regulation forehand, and found no way back.
The Briton's next appearance could be at the Cincinnati Masters next week, another in a series of hard-court tournaments in the run-up for the US Open which starts on 30 August.
The world No 1, Roger Federer, cruised past Hicham Arazi, of Morocco, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday to reach the second round.
The second seed, Andy Roddick, also powered through with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Julien Benneteau, of France.
Several leading players went out, including the third seed, Guillermo Coria, of Argentina, who retired with a shoulder injury when trailing 5-1 to Peru's Luis Horna. The Argentinian, who lost in the final here last year to Roddick, had led 4-1 in the third set. The sixth seed, David Nalbandian, lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Mikhail Youzhny, of Russia