Henman's 55-minute demolition

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman, who is still looking for his first title in 2000, took just 55 minutes to qualify for the third round of the Tennis Masters Series in Cincinnati with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, yesterday.

Tim Henman, who is still looking for his first title in 2000, took just 55 minutes to qualify for the third round of the Tennis Masters Series in Cincinnati with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, yesterday.

Henman is now due to meet the winner of the match between the Wimbledon champion, Pete Sampras, and the American qualifier Taylor Dent, which was to take place last night.

Henman's win was impressive since Puerta stands at 19th on the ATP tournament entry list, just three places behind the Briton. It followed Henman's 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 win on Tuesday evening over the American qualifier Cecil Mamiit, and has put him in much better spirits following his disappointing first-round defeat in Toronto last week.

Pete Sampras has admitted that facing an unfamiliar opponent can make a match more difficult, and he got off to a slow start with Mariano Zabaleta, of Argentina, on Tuesday before winning 6-4, 6-2.

Sampras, the defending champion, started tentatively, facing his only break point at 30-40 in the third game of the first set, but eventually eased his way into the 69-minute match. Sampras, who won a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, said: "You have to get used to his game, where he likes his shots. I came out a little bit flat today, but started to feel better as the match went on."

The top-seeded Andre Agassi, trying to revitalise his game after sustaining a back injury in a minor car accident the day after his semi-final exit at Wimbledon, had a 7-6, 6-1 first-round victory over Wayne Ferreira.

"I think right now just getting through a match without any physical difficulties has been an accomplishment," the American said. Agassi has beaten Ferreira on all nine occasions they have met, allowing the South African to win only one of 20 sets.

In the Los Angeles Open, Serena Williams kept up the family success story by beating Ruxandra Dragomir 6-0, 6-1 in 38 minutes. Williams had not played since losing to her sister, Venus, in the semi-finals at Wimbledon five weeks ago.

The third seed and three-times champion, Monica Seles, had to withdraw with a left forearm strain and the 17-year-old qualifier Daja Bedanova, of the Czech Republic, surprised the sixth seed, Nathalie Tauziat of France, winning 6-3, 6-4.

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