Rusedski may face early Henman test

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The Britons Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman are on course to face each other in the fourth round of the US Open. The pair, who have never met in a Grand Slam, were pitched together in the same half of the draw for the tournament which starts on Monday.

In the first round Rusedski, runner-up at Flushing Meadows in 1997, has been drawn against Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui. Henman, the No 9 seed who leads 3-2 in matches against Rusedski, will play a qualifier in his first-round tie.

If the two countrymen are to play each other, they will both have to overcome French opponents in the third round, with Rusedski lined up to face Sebastien Grosjean while Henman could square up to Fabrice Santoro. Britain's other entrant in the singles, Martin Lee, has been drawn against Sjeng Schalken, the 24th seed, of the Netherlands.

Suffering his worst run of form in over a decade, the seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras only just scraped into the second round of the Hamlet Cup in New York with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 win over the Belgian Olivier Rochus.

Seeded 10th for the forthcoming US Open, Sampras has not won any of the last 16 tournament he has entered, his leanest spell since 1990. In the same tournament, the Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic slumped to a 6-3, 7-5 defeat at the hands of Spain's Felix Mantilla. The seventh-seeded Croatian complained afterwards that his injured left shoulder continued to bother him and would eventually require surgery.

Asked about the upcoming US Open, Ivanisevic said: "It's not going to be easy. I'll have to take painkillers as I did at Wimbledon and pray as I did there."

In the Pilot Pen women's tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, Venus Williams continued her ominous form, defeating Sandrine Testud of France 7-6, 6-3 to reach the third round. Williams has won 14 of her last 15 matches, including her second straight Wimbledon crown. The top seed Lindsay Davenport is also through, after comfortably overcoming the Russian qualifier Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-1.

Boris Becker will play in the Honda Challenge at the Royal Albert Hall in London from 5 to 9 December. The three-times Wimbledon singles champion, who retired from the ATP Tour in 1999, recently joined John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg on the senior circuit, the Delta Tour of Champions.

In preparation for his comeback, the 33-year-old Becker played doubles with Goran Ivanisevic, the Wimbledon champion, at the Masters Series tournament in Cincinnati. He is due to play McEnroe in an exhibition match during the US Open.

Asked what prompted him to return to the court, Becker said: "We are competitors, we live for it."