Sunday, August 13, 2000

Henman, Enqvist play for title

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tim Henman celebrates semifinal victory.
(AP photo)
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        MASON — Tim Henman has survived and thrived all week by putting things out of his mind.

        He didn't dwell on his 0-6 record against Pete Sampras. He didn't concern himself with never having made it out of a Tennis Masters Series semifinal. He didn't listen to rumors that Gustavo Kuerten might not be able to play Saturday.

        Now he will try to forget about the fact he is 0-6 in finals since October 1998 and today could bring the biggest title of his career.

        Henman, the No.15 seed, outlasted the No.4 seed Kuerten 6-7 (11), 6-4, 7-6 (0) to advance to the championship match at the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati.

        He will face No.7 seed Thomas Enqvist at 1 p.m. today. Enqvist, who is 0-2 in finals this year, breezed past tournament surprise Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 10 minutes in the second semifinal Saturday.

        Henman leads his series with Enqvist 2-1.

Thomas Enqvist
(Jeff Swinger photo photo)
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        Enqvist, 26, winner of two career Masters Series titles and runner-up this year at Indian Wells, likes to play on the baseline. Henman likes to serve and volley. Both are playing very well this week.

        “It's going to be a great match,” Enqvist said. “He's coming to the net a lot. Usually I like to play serve-and-volleyers.”

        Nobody seeded lower than 11th had been a finalist here since unseeded Chris Lewis in 1981. And nobody seeded lower than seventh has ever won in Cincinnati.

        Henman, 25, is in his first career Tennis Masters Series final. He's also the first Englishman to advance to the championship match in Cincinnati in 23 years.

        “I think it was probably my toughest match of the week,” said Henman, who upset Sampras on Thursday night. “The quality of tennis for both of us was really, really high at all times. To come through such a close match and finish off in style is very satisfying.

        “The Sampras match was more of a mental battle, having lost to him on a number of occasions. Today was a very hard physically.”

        Henman never lost his serve Saturday. That became his focus after dropping a 13-11 first-set tiebreaker, in which he had four set points and three costly double faults.

        It tied for the second-longest tiebreaker in the history of the tournament.

        “It's in my nature that I'm not one to get down,” Henman said of losing the first breaker. “My mental toughness is one of my attributes, and I've got to use it.”

        The third-set tiebreaker could not have been more unlike the first.

        Henman jumped ahead, stayed ahead and was stunned to run off seven straight points in a match that had been closely contested.

        “I haven't won many tiebreakers 7-love in my career, but that definitely was good timing,” Henman said. “I'm not going to start complaining, that's for sure ... Winning and losing and the points that we were playing, it's such a fine line. From my point of view, I played very consistently.”

        Henman had never advanced past the semis in any Grand Slam or Tennis Masters Series event.

        He is 0-2 in finals this year. He has not won a tournament in more than two years, since his title in Basel, Switzerland.

        He has lost 7-6 in the last set to Sampras (1999 Queen's Club), Karol Kucera (1999 Basel) and Cedric Pioline (2000 Rotterdam).

        “I played some really good tennis is all those finals, but perhaps luck wasn't on my side.” Henman said.

Main Tennis Page

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- Henman, Enqvist play for title
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Enqvist on cruise control
Late lapses cost Kuerten
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