The sun shone for Tim Henman here yesterday as the British No 1 outplayed Guillermo Coria, of Argentina, 6-2, 6-2, and kept alive his hopes of advancing from the round-robin stage of the Masters Cup.
Henman, defeated by Andy Roddick in his opening group match on Tuesday night, built on the positive aspects of his match against the American world No 2 and eliminated Coria after 70 minutes. Coria, who had won three of his four previous matches against Henman - including the French Open semi-final last June - was playing only his second competitive match in four months after shoulder surgery. As against Marat Safin, of Russia, in his opening group match, Coria lacked the serving power to underpin his counter-punching ground-stroke skills.
Henman's prospects of reaching tomorrow's semi-finals depend on the outcome of his concluding round-robin match against Safin, who was due to play Roddick later yesterday. An improvement in the weather after three days of rain interruptions finally brought a smile to a tournament that had been unable to showcase the season's eight most successful ATP Tour players.
Even yesterday water seeped into the equation. Henman noticed cracks on a baseline caused by water pressure under the court. "They need to patch that up," he said. Otherwise he was pleased with the discipline of his performance and added: "It's easy to fall in the trap of saying, 'He's serving slowly, so I won't miss my returns'." Henman was steady throughout.
Coria, watched by his great Argentinian compatriot, Guillermo Vilas, after whom he was named, was hitting serves as moderate as 88mph even when holding to love in the opening game. Called for a foot-fault on his first serve at 30-30 in the second game, Coria double-faulted. He recovered to deuce, but Henman's aggression brought him two more break points and the Briton converted the second of these with a deep drive to the corner.
Henman saved a break point before holding for 3-1, and broke a second time for 5-2 with a high backhand volley. Serving out the set was not easy, however. Henman had to save three break points from 0-40 before converting his first set point with an off-forehand to the corner.
Coria's problems with his serve continued in the second set when he double-faulted to 0-30 in the fifth game, Henman going on to break to deuce. To compound a difficult afternoon, Coria double-faulted again at 2-4, 15-40. Henman served out to love. "He's obviously struggling with his shoulder," Henman said. "I sympathise and respect him, because he's out there trying to do his best."Reuse content