Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Title-hungry Henman ousts Kuerten

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON - Tim Henman is No. 4 in the world, the highest ranking of his professional career, yet his tennis resume continues to lack a Grand Slam or Tennis Masters Series title.

[photo] Tim Henman
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        The closest he has come: two years ago, when he lost the championship match to Thomas Enqvist at the ATP Tennis Center, and March, when he lost in the final to top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt in Indian Wells, Calif.

        Henman calls his hunger to win a major title “massive.”

        “It gets bigger and bigger all the time,” Henman said. “I think as I keep improving my game and continue to work as hard as I do, then I think it becomes a more and more realistic opportunity for me.”

        Henman won his first-round showdown with defending champion Gustavo Kuerten 6-3, 6-4 Tuesday at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. It was their third meeting in three years here.

[photo] Gustavo Kuerten
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Kuerten, recovering from March hip surgery, wasn't the player he was in the previous two matches with Henman. He retired from his first-round match in Toronto last week and estimates he is 70 to 80 percent healthy.

        “I am still not playing good enough,” Kuerten said. “The first round, especially for me, was tough to play at such a good level.”

        “Irrespective of the way Guga is feeling physically, it's great to beat someone of his caliber,” said Henman, who has won 10 of his last 12 matches in Cincinnati. “I did feel like I was able to exploit his movement. The longer the point went on, perhaps it was more in my favor, which certainly wouldn't be the case in previous years.

        “It's a good start for me, and I want to try and build from it. I feel very, very comfortable here.”

        Henman next faces Fernando Gonzalez, who defeated Arnaud Clement on Monday to advance. Gonzalez beat Henman on clay in the first round of the Tennis Masters Series Rome event.

        Should Henman advance as far as the semifinals for the third consecutive year, he could end up facing top seed Hewitt or No.6 seed Andre Agassi.

        Hewitt defeated Henman in the Wimbledon semifinals and the Queen's Club final, in addition to Indian Wells. Henman's only title of the year came in his first tournament in Adelaide, Australia.

        As for Kuerten, who is 15-4 all time here, he heads back to his hometown of Florianopolis, Brazil, today and will not play another tournament until the U.S.Open, which starts Aug.26.

        “I am still concerned much more about my health than about my results,” he said. “I didn't play bad (against Henman). I played a good match. ... I'm just looking forward to getting in shape again. That's the only thing still on my mind.”


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