Henman in good heart despite defeat

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman will go into the US Open, which starts a week today, brimming with confidence despite losing in the semi-finals of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis.

Tim Henman will go into the US Open, which starts a week today, brimming with confidence despite losing in the semi-finals of the RCA Championships in Indianapolis.

The British No 1, seeded seven, failed to reach his second successive ATP final on Saturday beaten 7-5, 6-4 by third-seeded Russian Marat Safin. But he remains in great spirits after an excellent recent run of results which has seen him finish runner-up to Thomas Enqvist in Cincinnati last week, a tournament in which he also recorded his first win over Pete Sampras.

Henman said: "Obviously I didn't play my best against Safin but I've been playing really well, probably the best I've played for a stretch in my career perhaps, and definitely the best I've played in the States.

"I'm really excited about the Open, I can definitely go to New York and work on a few things and look to have a good run. I'll probably have a couple of days off now, then I'll get into the city and start practising on Wednesday. I'm looking to have a good run, that's for sure."

Henman had beaten second seed, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, in the quarter-finals, but was under pressure from the outset against Safin having to save eight break points in his first four service games.

To be fair, he did have four break points of his own during the first set, but Safin held his nerve to set up a final meeting with the Brazilian top seed Gustavo Kuerten last night.

"I executed my shots poorly. I tried to do a lot of the right things, but I didn't play particularly well - I think that's the bottom line," said Henman. "We both definitely had opportunities early on, but I played poorly - I'm not going to make any excuses. I just didn't play well enough and at the end of the first set I made too many unforced errors."

In the other semi-final, Kuerten rallied from 5-2 down in the first set to beat the Australian Lleyton Hewitt, 7-5, 6-2.

In the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, the reigning US Open champion, Andre Agassi, advanced to the final with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over David Prinosil of Germany.

The top seed and defending champion will bid for his sixth Washington title in 11 years against the second seed, Alex Corretja of Spain, who over came Germany's Nicolas Kiefer 7-6, 6-2.

"It's going to be fun," Agassi said. "He's going to make me hit a lot of balls and give me the work I need going into the Open." Agassi has a 4-2 career record against Corretja but has lost their last two matches - the 1998 Indianapolis final and 1998 ATP World Championship, when Agassi retired with an injury and Corretja went on to take the title.

The women's world No 1, Martina Hingis, and the reigning US Open champion, Serena Williams, advanced to the final of the Du Maurier Open in Montreal, setting up a replay of the 1999 US Open title match.

The fourth-seeded Williams defeated the seventh-seeded Span-iard, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, 6-2, 6-4 while Hingis beat another Spaniard, the third seed, Conchita Martinez, 6-3, 6-2 at the hard-court event.

The Swiss teenager will try and stop the Williams family title streak that began when Serena's older sister, Venus, won her first Grand Slam title last month, beating Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon.

Venus followed with victories at Stanford and San Diego and Serena added the Los Angeles crown last week which leaves the sisters' streak at four.

The sisters are continuing their pattern of not playing in the same warm-up events for a Grand Slam.

Venus skipped this event, but will play next week at New Haven in the final hard-court tune-up before the action starts at the US Open.