Tim Henman will play Andre Agassi, the No 1 seed, in the quarter-finals of the Ericsson Open here after defeating Marcelo Rios, 6-1, 1-6, 7-6, in the fourth round yesterday.
The British No 1 held his nerve better than the Chilean in the third set tie-break, even allowing for his eighth double-fault of the match at 3-1.
Agassi proved too lively for Australia's Pat Rafter in a sparkling match on the Stadium Court. Agassi won, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the quarter-finals.
Henman, making the more intelligent use of the windy conditions - "the shorter your swings on the shots, theeasier it can be" - Henman took only 20 minutes to take the opening set.
His supporters must have feared for his serve after he double-faulted on the first point, but it was his only mistake in the opening game, after which he warmed to the task of unsettling his opponent.
Rios saved a break point at 30-40 in the second game - an opportunity which Henman created with a fine block-volley - but double-faulted himself into trouble in the fourth game, in which Henman broke for3-1 with a backhand volley. The Briton won 16 of the last 18 points of the set.
Henman is familiar with the Grandstand Court here, having defeated the likes of Carlos Moya and Petr Korda in the past and, in the third round on Monday, he gained his first victory against the Argentinian Mariano Zabaleta.
"It's not the most level of courts I've ever played on," Henman said. "If you look from the far end, from the service line towards the baseline, it does slope off quite considerably. Having said that, I think that suits me quite well. The ball keeps lower."
Henman certainly experienced ups and downs yesterday. The second set ran away from him in 26 minutes, Rios perking up considerably after seeing his opponent double-fault like a park player to lose serve for 1-3.
Rios's game was first to crack in the heat of the final set when he missed a backhand volley at 1-2. He responded by breaking back to love for 2-3, helped by Henman's double-fault on break point.
Henman, generally effective with the sliced backhand, recovered the break for 4-2, luring Rios into the error of hitting a forehand wide - only to double-fault on another break point to beckon Rios back into the contest at 4-3. The Chilean wobbled at 15-40 in the next game, but managed to force a backhand error from Henman on the first break point and was relieved when Henman put a forehand long on the second opportunity.
Fortunately, Henman came good in the shoot-out, and he will now try to repeat his 1998 victory against Agassi in the Basle final, which levelled their head-to-head at 1-1.
Jennifer Capriati, who beat Serena Williams in the women's singles fourth round on Monday, did not have as much energy in yesterday's quarter-finals and was defeated by SandrineTestud, of France, 6-3, 6-4.
Results from the $5.725 million Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida:
Men Singles Fourth Round
(1) Andre Agassi (US) def. (15) Patrick Rafter (Aus) 6-4, 6-4. (14) Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) def. (3) Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) 6-4, 6-3. (6) Gustavo Kuerten (Bra) def. Gianluca Pozzi (It) 6-4, 7-6 (3). (10) Tim Henman (GB) def. (8) Marcelo Rios (Chile) 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (4). Wayne Ferreira (SA) def. Dominik Hrbaty (Slovak) 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles Third Round
Patrick Galbraith and Brian MacPhie (US) def. Ellis Ferreira (SA) and Rick Leach (US) 6-1, 6-3. Justin Gimelstob (US) and Sebastien Lareau (Can) def. Massimo Bertolini and Cristian Brandi (It) 7-5, 6-3. Jiri Novak and David Rikl (Cz Rep) def. David Adams and John-Laffnie de Jager (SA) 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Women Singles Quarter-finals
(12) Sandrine Testud (Fr) def. (13) Jennifer Capriati (US) 6-3, 6-4.
Doubles Second Round
Jelena Dokic (Aus) and Patty Schnyder (Swit) def. Anna Kournikova (Rus) and Natasha Zvereva (Bel) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat (Fr) def. Surina de Beer and Nannie de Villiers (SA) 6-1, 6-2. Julie Halard-Decugis (Fr) and Ai Sugiyama (Japan) def. Holly Parkinson and Brie Rippner (US) 6-3, 7-6 (2). Laurence Courtois (Bel) and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (Sp) def. Kimberly Po (US) and Anne-Gaelle Sidot (Fr) 6-4, 6-0. Mary Pierce (Fr) and Lisa Raymond (US) def. Virginia Ruano Pascual (Sp) and Paola Suarez (Arg) 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. Anke Huber, Germany, and Barbara Schett, Austria, def. Amanda Coetzer (SA) and Lori McNeil (US) 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Nicole Arendt (US) and Manon Bollegraf (Neth) def. Silvia Farina (It) and Karina Habsudova (Slov) 6-2, 6-2.
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