Thursday, August 10, 2000

Tennis Masters Notebook


Henman eager for Sampras

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Tim Henman's specialty is steadiness, but he needs a quick detour into greatness. The consistent British star's so-so season could add a surprise exclamation point if he finally can vanquish Pete Sampras.

        Henman, the 15th seed in the Tennis Master Series Cincinnati, beat Mariano Puerta 6-1, 6-2 Wednesday, setting up a showdown with the defending champion. Sam pras defeated qualifier Taylor Dent 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) late Wednesday.

        Henman is 0-6 lifetime against Sampras, though they haven't played since last year's Wimbledon.

        “It'll be nice to play him on hard courts,” Henman said. “We've played four times on grass, his strongest surface, so I'll probably get a better look at his serve on the (slightly slower) hard courts.”

        Three of Henman's defeats by Sampras have come at Wimbledon, and another in London at the Queen's Club event. Those were tough, because Henman's countrymen cheered in vain each time.

        “I've been getting closer and closer,” Henman said.

        Henman, a top-10 regular the past three years, is 17th in the ATP Champions Race this year.

        “I've had solid results but nothing really spectacular,” he said. “Maybe this can be the week.”

        WILDEST CARD: Jonas Bjorkman gradually has become a doubles specialist, but Paul Flory knew enough to realize Bjorkman had plenty of strong singles play left in him.

        Bjorkman is 57th in the ATP Entry System — the “old” ranking system, now used to seed players for tournaments — and that wasn't high enough to earn an automatic berth in this field. Flory, the tournament chairman, extended a wild-card invitation to Bjorkman, and Bjorkman has repaid him with a pair of upsets.

        After beating fifth-seeded Alex Corretja on Tuesday, Bjorkman beat 40th-ranked Carlos Moya — a former world No.1 — in a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 decision Wednesday. Bjorkman was ranked as high as No.4 at the end of 1997 but lately has excelled in doubles; he ranks 19th there.

        Bjorkman is scheduled to play Todd Martin today in a third-round match.

        STRONG WORDS: Mark Philippoussis may have caught a break when top seed Andre Agassi retired in the third set of his match with Fernando Vicente. But before he learned of Agassi's fate, Philippoussis was predicting an upset.

        “He beat me pretty good the last four times I played him and, you know, I feel that could be a little different tomorrow,” he said. “I think I'm going to take him down.”

        Philippoussis is 1-4 in his career against Agassi. He has never played Vicente.

        HOSPITAL VISIT: Four tour players visited the Children's Hospital Medical Center on Wednesday. Cecil Mamiit, Karim Alami, Mahesh Bhupathi and Peter Nyborg toured the hospital and talked to patients and their families.

        TOUCH-UP PAINT: Something you don't usually see at a tennis match? A guy walking around the court with a paintbrush.

        Jim Lathrop, who owns Total Tennis, Inc., in Columbus, is the ATP Tennis Center's court supervisor — the man responsible for resurfacing the DecoTurf courts each year. With the new purple color this year, Lathrop has spent time between matches touching up spots where the paint has rubbed off.

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Tennis Stories
A wet and weird day in Mason
Today's tennis schedule
Wednesday's tennis results
Agassi 'backs' out of Masters
Qualifier almost put dent in Sampras
Norman struggling at top
Rain delay rescues Kuerten
Becker inspires Philippoussis to reach potential
'Woodies' going out on top
Coach built rapport, better Sampras
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