Masters Cup target looks tough for Henman

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The Independent Online

Tim Henman, who has yet to win a Masters Series event on the ATP Tour, may have to reach the final of this week's Paris Indoor tournament to keep his hopes alive of securing one of the two remaining places for the eight-man Masters Cup in Lisbon on 28 November.

Tim Henman, who has yet to win a Masters Series event on the ATP Tour, may have to reach the final of this week's Paris Indoor tournament to keep his hopes alive of securing one of the two remaining places for the eight-man Masters Cup in Lisbon on 28 November.

The British No 1 has six rivals for qualification: Lleyton Hewitt, of Australia, Alex Corretja and Juan Carlos Ferrero, of Spain, Thomas Enqvist, of Sweden, Wayne Ferreira, of South Africa, and Franco Squillari, of Argentina.

A place in the semi-finals here would keep Henman on track going into next week's Samsung Open in Brighton - unless Corretja manages to reach the Paris quarter-finals.

Intriguingly, Greg Rusedski, the British No 2, may be in a position to help Henman's cause if he gets to play Corretja in the second round. The Spaniard, seeded No 8, has a first-round bye. Rusedski, the winner of the title here in 1998 but currently fighting to improve his ranking for next season, plays Arnaud Clement, of France, in the first round tonight. Rusedski had a scare on Saturday when he cut his left knee falling on the court while practising with the Frenchman Cedric Pioline.

Henman, the ninth seed, who also has a first-round bye, plays Albert Costa, of Spain, in the second round this afternoon. Costa, who defeated the American Alex O'Brien in the first round yesterday, 7-5, 6-3, has lost his three previous matches against Henman in straight sets, the latest in Stuttgart three weeks ago.

Should Henman continue the sequence, he could find himself face-to-face with Enqvist in the third round. The Swede, seeded No 7, is due to play the winner of today's first-round match between Karol Kucera, of Slovenia, and the Italian Gianluca Pozzi.

The six players who have qualified for Lisbon are Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, of Russia, Gustavo Kuerten, of Brazil, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, of the United States, and Magnus Norman, of Sweden. Sampras is the only one absent in Paris, although the Wimbledon champion has declared his intention to compete in the Masters Cup,

The most famous moustache in tennis belongs to Ion Tiriac, the Romanian entrepreneur who guided Boris Becker to greatness and now looks after the fortunes of Safin, the 20-year-old Muscovite who leads the ATP Champions Race into the final furlong after winning his sixth title of the year in St Petersberg.

Were Tiriac to shave his upper lip, he would risk an identity crisis that could result in his cheques being bounced by the Bucharest bank he owns.

Henri Clement, in contrast, is getting along nicely without his moustache. But, then, it went in a good cause. He had promised to shave it off when his son, Arnaud, won his first ATP Tour title, and Arnaud accomplished that in Lyon last Sunday, defeating Australia's Pat Rafter in the final, 7-6, 7-6, having prospered from Agassi's retirement because of injury in the second set of their semi-final.

Rafter, whose main goal is to sharpen his match fitness before Australia's defence of the Davis Cup against Spain in Barcelona next month, defeated Kuerten in the quarter-finals in Lyon. He was impressed by Clement's performance in the final. "I was trying very hard to make the breaks, but Arnaud played a very smart game and didn't allow me to play well," Rafter said.

Clement, a 22-year-old from Aix-en-Provence, beat Rusedski in straight sets in the first round at the Sydney Olympics, having lost to the British No 2 in each of their three previous matches, in Toulouse, Boston, and London Indoor Arena. Clement is No 17 in the Champions Race. Rusedski is No 63, but determined to make the most of his expertise on indoor courts.

* Lindsay Davenport defeated Martina Hingis 7-6, 6-4 to win the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia on Sunday, beating the Swiss in the title match for the second successive year. Hingis, the world No 1, saved two match points and reeled off nine straight points against the American before losing serve in the final game. Earlier Davenport, had to fight off two set points to win the tie-break in the first set.

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