Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski both enjoyed fine performances in the first round of the Masters Series here. Yesterday, Henman knocked out the former world No 1 Gustavo Kuerten, while, late on Monday, Rusedski produced the biggest shock of the event so far when he beat the current world No 2, Marat Safin, also in straight sets.
Henman, who was in blistering form, beat the defending champion 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes but could have won even more easily had he held serve while leading 5-2 in the second set. Henman has now beaten the Brazilian twice in the last three years the pair have played here.
Henman made the shakier start, saving a break point in his opening service game, but from then on lost just one more point on his own serve and broke Kuerten in the sixth game to take the first set. The second set was even more one-sided, with Kuerten losing his serve in the opening game and again in the seventh to give the fourth seed a 5-2 lead.
The Briton stuttered slightly as he tried to take the match but served out to love when he had a second chance at 5-4. This is Kuerten's second first round defeat in a row. The three-time French Open champion retired with a hip injury when a set down to Andrei Pavel in the first round of the Canadian Masters last week.
Rusedski's victory was not as clear cut as Henman's but, if anything, was even more impressive. It was not a great start for the British No 2 who found himself 5-2 down in the first set. But just as Safin was charging in for a set point the Russian missed a routine forehand. In characteristic fashion, Safin then fell apart, and Rusedski brought an end to a 52-minute set with an ace after forcing the tie-break.
After Safin lost his serve at the start the second set he kicked the court-side clock. From that point, the match was effectively over and Rusedski was not surprised. "You've got to stay on him," he said. "You can see sometimes he gets upset on the court. He goes up and down a little bit."
The $2.95m (£2.1m) tournament opened up further last night when the world No 3 Tommy Haas was also knocked out in the first round.
The American veteran Michael Chang took full advantage of the German's lack of match practice to prevail 6-3, 6-2. Haas was playing only his third tournament since taking a six-week break after his parents were involved in a motorcycle accident in June. Haas's father Peter was in a coma for two and a half weeks but is now undergoing rehabilitation in Germany.Reuse content