Monday, August 14, 2000

Henman keeps stiff upper lip after loss

Briton focuses on positives

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tim Henman
(AP photo)
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        MASON — British radio announcers, giving live updates Sunday, were telling the folks back home this was Tim Henman's biggest match ever. But Henman insisted it wasn't his biggest letdown.

        “It's frustrating, no question,” he said. “I've talked this week about being patient. I've been working incredibly hard the past year but the results didn't show it. But this week I beat Pete (Sampras) for the first time, I beat the No. 1 player in the Champions Race (Gustavo Kuerten), and I got to my first Masters Series finals. I can take a lot of positives out of it.”

        The hard-luck Henman, seeded 15th, fell 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 to No. 7 seed Thomas Enqvist in the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati finals. Henman is 4-11 in career tournament finals and has lost seven in a row, having gone nearly two years without a title.

        “My inspiration is Pat Rafter,” Henman said.

        Rafter was just 1-for-8 in title matches before his breakthrough, when he won the 1997 U.S. Open.

        Henman has been in and out of the Top 10 for two years, reaching No. 5 last year. In the ATP Champions Race, his success this week lifted him from 17th to 11th.

        But the tough breaks continue. During this string of finals futility, Henman has lost a tiebreaker in six of the seven matches, and Sunday's first-set tiebreaker was a back-breaker.

        At 5-5 in the tiebreak, Henman double-faulted. Then he missed a backhand volley that decided the set. Enqvist stretched the run to 10 consecutive points to mount a 2-0 second-set lead.

        Henman couldn't convert any of his seven break points Sunday, four of them in the second set.

        “Thomas came up with great shots when he needed them,” he said.

        Henman lost his serve just four times in six matches this week — only twice in his last five matches.

        “I've never served as well as I have this week,” he said. “If I keep giving myself these opportunities, I know things will work out. I can beat anyone on a given day.”

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