Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Henman Boosted as Nadal Pulls Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Henman Boosted as Nadal Pulls Out

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

RAFAEL NADAL has decided to pull out of the Australia Open, which starts in Melbourne on Monday.

According to reports in Spain, the world No2 has not recovered fully from the foot problem he sustained in Madrid three months ago.

The 19-year-old Spaniard was forced to miss last week's Chennai Open and this week's Sydney International.

Nadal, the reigning French Open champion, took part in a lay-court training session against Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten in Barcelona yesterday but admitted he was still not 100 per cent fit.

He said: "I am slower than normal, mainly when I have to run to my right. It is clear that if I travelled to Australia I would not be either at my best tennis-wise nor physically."

With titleholder Marat Safin expected to follow suit due to a chronic knee problem, the way is open for Britain's Tim Henman to be granted a seeding place.

Andre Agassi has also dropped out through injury and British No2 Greg Rusedski is staying at home with his wife Lucy, who is about to give birth to their first child.

It all means that Henman, down to No36 in the world rankings, could find himself among the 32 seeds for the opening Grand Slam tennis tournament of the season.

Any hopes British No3 Andy Murray might have had of an easy run in his final warm-up event before the Australian Open appear to be dashed.

Fernando Gonzalez, who will face the Scottish youngster in the third round of the Heineken Open in Auckland if both players get that far, showed today why he is the top seed with an easy 6-3, 6-4 victory over Peru's Luis Horna.

Gonzalez, the world No11 and defending champion, turned on the best performance of the opening round, stunning the New Zealand crowd with his powerful aces and skilful stroke-making in a victory that took little more than an hour.

"I played really good tennis, which is why I won in two sets," said the 25-year-old Chilean, who should have little trouble against qualifier Ivo Minar in round two. …

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