Wed, Aug 15, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Chela makes Tim Henman feel his age

STRUGGLING Henman, who has slipped to his lowest ranking since 1996, complained of the pounding his ailing back was subjected to on the hard court in Ohio


Tim Henman of Britain falls between points during his match against Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina during the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Mason, Ohio, on Monday.


Juan Ignacio Chela defeated Tim Henman 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, making the 32-year-old Briton run around and feel his age in the midday heat on Monday.

Most of the time, it wasn't a good feeling.

"You feel like you're playing in pain most of the time," Henman said. "Playing on hard courts, it's always going to be pretty tough on the body."

In other matches, No. 10 Tomas Berdych beat Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4, No. 11 Ivan Ljubicic beat Amer Delic 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 13th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia beat Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 6-1; Carlos Moya beat David Nalbandian 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2); Jurgen Melzer of Austria survived five double faults and saved four break points for a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2) victory over Ivo Karlovic of Croatia; and Spanish No. 16 David Ferrer beat 2.06m US player John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Henman has slipped to No. 92 -- his lowest ranking since 1996 -- in part because his chronic back problems are limiting his practice time and bothering him in matches on hard courts. The Cincinnati Masters is played on the same surface as the US Open.

Henman is 5-11 this season, including 3-5 on hard courts. His last five losses have come in full-set matches that test his balky back.

"I'm coming back onto hard courts and struggling with my back again," Henman said. "That's been an issue for quite some time. It's just the constant pounding on the courts. You know, it's hard when you're playing a match of that nature. I just feel like it sort of deteriorates a little bit as the match goes on, so it's difficult."

Henman has finished in the top 50 of the rankings for the last 11 years, sharing with Moya the longest such active streak on the men's tour. He lost a five-set match on Centre Court to Feliciano Lopez in the second round at Wimbledon in June, prompting speculation that he might not return for another season.

Henman didn't want to talk about his long-term future on Monday, keeping his focus on the upcoming US Open and Davis Cup.

"I appreciate that I'm nearer the end of my career than the start," he said. "But I've got this -- the tournaments coming up, the US Open and Davis Cup. So, yeah, I'll sort of take it in those sort of segments and see how I feel."

Moya, who turns 31 on Aug. 27, finished the first-set tiebreaker with one of his 11 aces, and was up 4-2 in the second set when Nalbandian broke his serve to get back into it.

"Still I was feeling I was controlling the match pretty well with my serve," Moya said. "There was no frustration or desperation. I knew I was going to have a chance sooner or later."

He got it in the tiebreaker, serving back-to-back aces to take control at 4-1. He closed it out with a service winner.

"I felt I played pretty well," Nalbandian said. "At the important points, he played great."

The Spaniard was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1999, and has dedicated himself to becoming one of the game's elite again. Since he was No. 47 in February, he has steadily climbed to No. 19 this week.

Top-seeded Roger Federer, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Andy Roddick -- who won the tournament last year -- were among those with first-round byes.

Seeds advance in Toronto

Dinara Safina rallied from 4-1 and two breaks down to beat Camille Pin 7-6 (9), 3-6, 7-5 in a Rogers Cup first-round match on Monday.

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