Saturday, August 11, 2001

Henman gets another shot at Kuerten




By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Tim Henman.
(Jeff Swinger photos)
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        MASON — After the longest Friday in the event's history, Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati isn't likely to see a speedy semifinal today when Gustavo Kuerten and Tim Henman reunite.

        They met last year in the semis, and Henman's 6-7 (11), 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory took two hours and 36 minutes, the second-longest match of the tournament.

        Last year, that was a bit of an upset: Kuerten was No.1 in the world and Henman was 13th. Kuerten is still the world's No. 1 player, while Henman is now eighth.

        “I'm looking forward to it,” Henman said. “Nothing to lose. Same time, same place as last year. Hopefully I can get the same result. He's playing awfully well, so it's not going to be easy.”

        Kuerten surged Friday night to the top spot in the season-long ATP Champions Race. He rallied from a 4-2 third-set deficit, winning 14 of the last 16 points to beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

TODAY'S GUIDE
  • Schedule, results
  • Television: 1-3 p.m., ESPN (live); 10 p.m.-midnight, ESPN2 (tape delayed)
        Kuerten will assume the Champions Race points lead Monday. He began the week at No.2, trailing Andre Agassi 610 points to 570.

        Henman rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory Friday night over Jan- Michael Gambill. Henman, trying to return to the finals for the second consecutive year, is chasing his first Tennis Masters Series title.

        “I've never beaten (Gambill), so it didn't really matter how long it was going to take,” Henman said. “I was prepared to stay out there.”

        Kuerten's comeback was the bigger news Friday.

        “To play a match like this, to see yourself with almost no more chance, (but) then win it, it's a big thing for me,” Kuerten said.

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Gustavo Kuerten
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        Kuerten has quietly assembled the best record in this tournament among active players (13-3, .813), a mark that is tied with Ilie Nastase (13-3) for the second-best in the tournament's Open Era history. The leader is Mats Wilander (36-7, .837).

        Kafelnikov, ranked sixth and seeded the same, appeared ready to run away with the match early in the third set. He led 2-0 and had Kuerten in a love-40 hole.

        Kuerten saved four break points in that game, but still trailed 4-2 before making his move. From 30-all on his own serve at 3-4, he won 13 of the next 14 points to reach triple match point, effectively ending matters.

        “I think I kind of let it go,” Kafelnikov said of his opportunity to go up 3-0. “He was just hanging at the time. I played poorly a few points, he held (serve), and the match had started again.

        “If I break serve there, the match would have been over. It's such a big psychological boost (for Kuerten) to come from 2-0 down and love-40, and all of a sudden the momentum changed.”

        Kuerten played a cleaner match, hitting 35 winners and 14 aces with 23 unforced errors. Kafelnikov had 34 unforced errors to 25 winners and landed just 46 percent of his first serves.

        Kafelnikov was upset with a line call to begin his service game at 4-3 in the final set. A ball he struck was ruled long, though TV replays showed it landed inside the line.

        “At that stage, every point is crucial,” Kafelnikov said. “If I'm up 15-love, it's a different game. You're striking the ball instead of getting defensive.

        “It's a question of luck. It's on Guga's side right now.”

Kuerten vs. Henman

        Series: Henman leads 2-0
        Gustavo Kuerten
        Personal: 24 years old; born in Florianoapolis, Brazil
        Rankings: No.2 in ATP Champions Race (becomes No.1 Monday); No.1 in ATP Entry System
        Highest singles ranking: No.1 (current)
        In Cincinnati: 13-3, fourth year
        2001 highlights: Won — French Open, Tennis Masters Series Monte Carlo, Stuttgart, Buenos Aires, Acapulco; finalist — TMS Rome.

        Tim Henman
        Personal: 26 years old; born in Oxford, England
        Rankings: No.8 in Champions Race and Entry System
        Highest singles ranking: No.5 (July '99)
        In Cincinnati: 12-5, sixth year
        2001 highlights: won — Copenhagen; finalist — Queen's Club; semifinalist — Wimbledon, Adelaide.
       



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