Kiefer extends Henman's barren run

Tim Henman's quest for an end to his two-year title drought will have to wait after the British No 1 lost 6-4 6-2 to Nicolas Kiefer in the semi-finals of the Salem Open here yesterday. The second-seeded Henman, without a trophy on the ATP Tour since 1998, began poorly and never recovered against the third-seeded German.

Tim Henman's quest for an end to his two-year title drought will have to wait after the British No 1 lost 6-4 6-2 to Nicolas Kiefer in the semi-finals of the Salem Open here yesterday. The second-seeded Henman, without a trophy on the ATP Tour since 1998, began poorly and never recovered against the third-seeded German.

Henman said: "I struggled, all credit to Kiefer. He served well on the big points. I don't think I got a look-in on his serve at all. I can't have many regrets, he just played better. I was a step slower today, maybe due to my match last night [a quarter-final win over Michael Chang in three sets]."

Henman said that his fitness was not quite 100 per cent after his efforts against Chang, but added that he would leave Hong Kong with more confidence. "I have three wins under my belt, that's good for the indoor season," he said. Kiefer, who ended Henman's hopes in just 90 minutes, will meet Mark Philippoussis in today's final after the Australian beat his compatriot Pat Rafter 7-6 6-4 in the other semi.

Henman was forced into errors and was broken once in the first set and twice in the second. Henman saved a break point in the first game but the match stayed with serve until Henman found himself facing three break points in the seventh game of the match. He saved the first with a drop shot, but netted a return to put Kiefer into a 4-3 lead after little more than 20 minutes. The German, a 1999 quarter-finalist here, comfortably served out for the set after Henman had saved set point on his own serve at 5-3 down.

Kiefer took a three-minute injury time-out at the start of the second set for treatment to his foot, but it did not seem to hamper the German as he powered back from 0-40 down in Henman's first service game to break for a 1-0 as the Briton produced his second double-fault of the game. Kiefer consolidated his lead with another break for 4-1 and the match was over a few minutes later.

Philippoussis scored his first tournament win over Rafter with the help of a barrage of aces against the man with whom he has had differences in the past year over Philippoussis' decision not to play in the Davis Cup. The fourth-seeded Philippoussis said: "Everything went my way, especially in the tie-break, where you need a bit of luck."

Rafter, a runner-up in Hong Kong in 1994 and 1997, explained afterwards that he and Philippoussis were working towards settling their differences. "If Mark chose to play Davis Cup we would be very strong. We are slowly working on our differences, talking in the locker room all the time. There are no bad vibes between us now," he said.

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