After waiting three days for a Brit, two came along together yesterday. Encouragingly, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski will be playing again tomorrow, although life at the United States Open may become rather more difficult for them.
Most British eyes here were focused on Henman's troublesome right shoulder throughout his first round match against Tuomas Ketola of Finland, a qualifier and ranked No 223 in the world, who turned out to be an ideal opponent. Henman, the fifth seed, won, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, after 86 minutes, without having to extend himself beyond flexing his right arm during change-overs in the third set.
"I was obviously a bit unsure going into the match," Henman said, confirming that a week ago he had questioned the wisdom of entering the tournament. "Winning so comfortably was helpful and good exercise for my shoulder."
Asked if his future opponents he next plays Dick Norman, a 31-year-old Belgian qualifier who stand 6ft 8in were likely to view him as a "wounded animal," especially since seven players had already retired during the opening matches, Henman said: "I think the injury has changed my attitude a bit. Seven days ago I wasn't certain I would play, or to what level I would be able to play. Today I was happy to be to be out there, just being able to have a chance. I was pretty relaxed for a first round match. I think that helped with my demeanour, my mental attitude."
It remains to be seen how far Henman's shoulder will take him. "I think it probably does need some extended rest," he said, "and for the rest of my career I'll have to do more of the strengthening work I should have done before Wimbledon. I've always trained very hard but one of my shortcomings in that area is the stretching process, which is equally important."
Rusedski, while not looking the part of a potential Grand Slam champion, coped with the windy conditions and overcame his fluctuating form to defeat Alex Kim, an American wild card, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
Having opened the match in commanding style, as befitting a man who defeated the top three players in the world, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Tommy Haas, en route to Flushing Meadows, Rusedski was fortunate that Kim lost his nerve in the third set after rocking Rusedski in the second set.
Kim, a break down in the second set, tested Rusedski's confidence with a series of passing shots in recovering to 2-2. Rusedski's forehand began to go awry after that, and he lost his serve a second time, at 4-5.
The 23-year-old former collegiate champion, ranked No 110, was broken when serving for the third set at at 5-3, but then held three set points on Rusedski's serve in the next game after the Briton double-faulted to 0-40. Rusedski served away the first set point and was relieved to see Kim net a backhand on the second. Rusedski missed his first serve on the third set point, then saved himself with a characteristic serve and forehand volley.
When it came to the tie-break, Kim did well to salvage a point. Rusedski won the shoot-out, 7-1, and then broke decisively for 4-2 in the fourth set before completing his victory.
In the second round Rusedski will play Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, who defeated Prakash Amritraj, of the United States, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, after 86 minutes. Srichaphan won his first ATP Tour title in Long Island last Sunday.
The first upset in the women's singles saw Jelena Dokic, the fourth seed, lose in the second round to Russia's Elena Bovina, 6-3, 6-3. Dokic offered no excuses, and Bovina, ranked No 61, said: "I just found my rhythm from the beginning."
Jennifer Capriati, viewed as the player most likely to prevent another all-Williams final, was as ruthless in dealing with her first round opponent as Venus had been in dispatching Mirjana Lucic, 6-0, 6-0. Capriati did not concede a game to Bethanie Mattek, a 17-year-old American qualifier, explaining: "I'm not out there to feel sorry for anybody. She's got to learn, It will make her tougher."
Capriati was asked to respond to a comment in a magazine interview by Richard Williams, the father of the world's top two women players, to the effect that she should stop cursing on court and listen to her father more. "You can see how ignorant that sounds and how disrespectful that sounds," Capriati said. "He should just concentrate on his daughters. I don't need his advice."
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