Rusedski and Henman fall at second hurdle

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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman made disappointing exits in the second round of the Newsweek Champions Cup, the first Masters Series event of the season, here last night. In quick succession Rusedski lost 6-4, 6-4 to the giant Belarussian Max Mirnyi and then Henman was defeated 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 bySebastien Grosjean of France.

Rusedski, the 15th seed, lost in just 68 minutes and was rarely able to make any impact against the impressive Mirnyi, who served in dominating fashion and volleyed safely.

In front of a sparse late-morning crowd, the 6ft 5in Mirnyi, ranked 55th in the Champions Race, began more sharply than Rusedski and set the tone for the rest of the match. The Belarussian, a doubles expert who has yet to win a singles title on tour, quickly found his range while Rusedski's first serve failed to fire.

"I played two bad service games where I got broken," said Rusedski. "I hit three double- faults - one of them on break point. That really doesn't help and it's not like I made him play for the break.

"In the second set he hit an unbelievable first-point return, then I came in and misjudged the ball a little bit and hit an easy half-volley into the net. Then I hit another double-fault."

Rusedski did not have a break-point chance until the second set, when he failed to convert two opportunities. "To lose a match like that is tough, but he played well," Rusedski said.

Both Britons had come through their first-round matches convincingly. Rusedski had overwhelmed James Blake 6-2, 6-0 and Henman, the British No 1 and 11th seed, had battled past Karim Alami 7-5, 6-2.

In the women's event there was a major upset when the defending champion, Serena Williams, lost to Mary Pierce after making a series of unforced errors in their quarter-final. The hard-hitting Williams, seeded third, found Pierce, the No 5 seed, pounding the ball even harder, as the Frenchwoman beat the US Open champion 6-2, 6-1. It was Pierce's first victory over Williams in three meetings.

"I didn't see like the raging intensity of Serena that I played against twice in the past," said Pierce. "When she serves well, there's nothing you can do. I thought I returned really well."

A stunned Williams said: "Every ball that I put in place, I guess she pounced on it. I've never seen her make that many shots that consistently in my life."

Lindsay Davenport also advanced to the semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-1 victory overConchita Martinez of Spain.

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