Sunday, August 13, 2000

Late lapses cost Kuerten

But blister slows No. 4 seed early

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Gustavo Kuerten
(Luis Sanchez photos)
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        MASON — An hour before Saturday's Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati semifinal, Gustavo Kuerten wasn't certain he'd be able to play.

        The 23-year-old from Brazil had a blister and ripped some skin off the middle of his right ring finger during his Friday quarterfinal victory over Todd Martin.

        Kuerten went out to warm up Saturday before facing 15th seed Tim Henman, and the finger wasn't feeling quite right and required some treatment.

        “I went out to hit, and it was really tough,” he said. “But the more I played, the more I got used to it.”

Tim Henman
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        Henman ended up beating the fourth-seeded Kuerten 6-7 (11), 6-4, 7-6 (0) to advance to today's championship match.

        Kuerten was attended to by ATP Tour trainer Doug Spreen during the second set when he trailed 3-2.

        Kuerten played in the two longest matches of the sin gles draw in consecutive days: 2:38 against Martin and 2:36 against Henman.

        Still, he said, he did not tire, he just didn't play well in the third-set tiebreaker. Kuerten started with his third double-fault of the match. Then Henman hit both of his first serves in, and Kuerten hit two shots into the net. It was 3-0.

        “Things went all his way at the end,” Kuerten said.

        Despite the loss, Kuerten will maintain — and widen — his lead in the ATP Champions Race when the new standings come out Monday. He has 572 points and is followed by Magnus Norman (533) and Pete Sampras (497). Last Monday, Kuerten led second-place Norman by only one point.

        Kuerten also will be No.1 in the Race going into the U.S. Open, which begins Aug.28. He is scheduled to play this week in Indianapolis, where he is the No.1 seed, then rest before the Grand Slam event.

        “(Friday) I win one maybe I should have lost, so today I wasn't as lucky,” Kuerten said. “Today I think we both played well.”

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