John Roberts: Henman follows Bates' lead

Some observers may be dismissive of Tim Henman's success in Washington, his 10th ATP Tour title, pointing out that the British No 1 did not even make it to the semi-finals at Wimbledon in June and has yet to advance beyond the last 16 of the three other Grand Slam championships. Nor has Henman won any of the nine Masters Series tournaments, a step below the majors.

As the 28-year-old from Oxfordshire moves on to compete in the Canadian Masters in Montreal as part of his preparation for the United States Open in three weeks' time, it is perhaps time to pause for thought.

Your correspondent recalls an April Sunday at the Monte Carlo Open in 1994 when the rest of the world's tennis media found great amusement in watching their British counterparts working up a lather over an event in Seoul.

Jeremy Bates, competing in his first ATP final at the age of 31, had won the Korean Open and had neglected to tell members of the Lawn Tennis Writers' Association that he was going to do so.

Along with a winner's cheque for £18,000, Bates' triumph against Joern Rensenbrink, a German 10 years his junior, raised his ranking high enough to guarantee direct entry to Wimbledon the following June. Moreover, Bates was the first Briton to win a singles tournament on the mainstream tour since Mark Cox's victory in Helsinki in 1977. Our cup ranneth over.

Kournikova is reduced to playing the collectors' card

Anna Kournikova can be relied upon to be in the picture in New York even though the women's singles at the United States Open is out of focus.

Serena Williams, the defending champion and world No 1, has withdrawn after surgery to her left knee. Williams' older sister, Venus, will only play if she has recovered from an abdominal tear. Ditto Jennifer Capriati, who has a strained pectoral muscle

But who needs tennis when the "Meet Anna Kournikova Sweepstakes" is in the final stretch?

Her future in the sport threatened by a chronic sprain of the lumbar spine, the 22-year-old Russian has turned to the memorabilia market. Collectors who buy a trading card from the Maven Group will be entered in a draw to meet Kournikova in New York on the eve of the US Open, which starts on 25 August.

Kournikova, ranked No 135 in the world, has only won one of her six WTA Tour matches this year, and has yet to win a WTA title. However, one Kournikova trading card is still worth half-a-dozen of the others.

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