Henman scrapes through, Rusedski thrashed

Last updated at 15:29 24 May 2004

British ninth seed Tim Henman made an unimpressive start to his French Open campaign when he beat Frenchman Cyril Saulnier 4-6 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-3.

However, it was a marked improvement on fellow Brit Greg Rusedski, who was knocked out in straight sets.

Henman, who has never been beyond the third round on the slow Roland Garros clay, was in dire straits after handing his 79th-ranked opponent the first two sets with a stream of unforced errors.

Henman recovered to snatch the third set 7-2 on a tiebreak and gradually Saulnier, who has never won a match at Roland Garros, wilted in the Parisian sunshine.

Henman levelled the match and dominated the fifth set, sealing victory in three hours 48 minutes when Saulnier double-faulted to set up a second round encounter with either Germany's Lars Burgsmueller or French wild card Nicolas Mahut.

Rusedski out

The flakes of rust clung to Greg Rusedski's game as he was swept out of the competition.

The British number two, who has not won a singles match since he won his battle against a positive drugs test, was annihilated 7-6 6-0 6-0 by Spain's Fernando Verdasco in his first round match on Court 14 at Roland Garros.

The defeat itself was unsurprising considering Rusedski's lack of match practice and the fact that the 20-year-old from Madrid is one of tennis's rising young guns.

But the way his game disintegrated after a competitive first set was uncharacteristic of the man who has always been renowned for his gutsy performances.

Rusedski had looked the equal of the man from Madrid in that first set, moving freely and matching the big groundstrokes of his opponent.

He could easily have squeezed out the tight tie-break, only losing it 9-7 but the setback seemed to shake his confidence and the errors just flowed from his racket after that.

Complete failure

He did not win another game and never looked like doing so as Verdasco upped his performance and Rusedski's serve, once the most feared in the world, lost all its bite.

It was, however, only Rusedski's seventh singles match of the year, he has won three and lost four, and the red clay of Roland Garros is a surface he hates.

By contrast Verdasco is a natural and it looked that way as he manoeuvred Rusedski around the court, his groundstrokes too precise and penetrating for the Brit.

When Rusedski lost his serve in the second game of the third set, with the winners flying from the racket of the Spaniard, the Canadian-born left-hander looked a dejected figure.

He tried chipping and charging desperately without success and his misery finally ended when he hit a volley into the net tape and it dropped agonisingly on his own side of the net.

Rusedski will not be disappointed to see the back of the Roland Garros clay. He can now concentrate on preparing for Wimbledon which is his best chance of rejuvenating his career.

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