ROME: Britain’s Tim Henman was denied a place in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters yesterday after losing to Argentinian Mariano Zabaleta at the Foro Italico.
Henman, the number four seed, joined the top three seeds on the tournament scrapheap despite taking the first set of his rain-delayed third round match with relative ease.
Zabaleta, who knocked out last year’s champion Felix Mantilla in the previous round, battled back after his early setback to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 40 minutes.
Henman’s error count of 30 to Zabaleta’s six told its own story.
Zabaleta, 26, will play either Chilean eighth seed Nicolas Massu or Russian Marat Safin, winner of the 2000 US Open, in the last eight.
Henman, who reached the quarter-finals at Monte Carlo last month, was disappointed to let slip a match that was there for the taking.
“In the first set my tennis was as good as it has ever been on clay,” said the 29-year-old, making his eighth consecutive appearance in the Italian capital.
“But he certainly raised his level in the second set. He was so consistent, so aggressive and was hitting a lot of his first serves, setting himself up and dictating with his forehand. It was difficult for me to make an impact.”
Henman was not the only fancied player to end up red-faced with four seeds tumbling out earlier in the day after losing their rain-delayed second round matches.
Lleyton Hewitt, Sebastien Grosjean, Paradorn Srichaphan and Sjeng Schalken all perished, but former French Open champion Carlos Moya survived the cull with a comfortable straight sets victory over Ivan Ljubicic.
The Spanish number six seed will play Ivo Karlovic in the third round after the Croation defeated Tommy Robredo, who triumphed in Barcelona last week.
Australian 15th seed Hewitt, who was ousted by Romanian Andrei Pavel, was not too disheartened by his early exit, insisting he was slowly coming to terms with Europe’s slower surfaces.
French seventh seed Grosjean was humbled by David Ferrer, Thai 10th seed Paradorn fell to Russian Marat Safin and Italian number one Filippo Volandri beat Dutch 11th seed Schalken, much to the delight of a patriotic home crowd.
l BERLIN: World number two Kim Clijsters has pulled out of the German Open because of a recurrent wrist injury that makes her a doubtful starter for the French Open.
The Belgian, who withdrew yesterday before her scheduled third round match against Croatia’s Karolina Sprem, said she would not play in Rome next week and would need further tests before knowing whether to enter the French Open starting on May 24.
The other top players in action yesterday, Amelie Mauresmo of France and former world number one Venus Williams, easily advanced to the quarter-finals on a rainy day in the German capital.
The 20-year-old Clijsters, playing her first tournament in seven weeks, had struggled to move past Spanish qualifier Marta Marrero in her first match at the Berlin tournament on Wednesday.
“My wrist did not respond well to that match,” the top seed said yesterday. “I’m pulling out and will not go to Rome next week.
“I will undergo further tests tomorrow (Friday). For the French Open, I would say it’s 50-50 but I don't know. We have to wait.”
Clijsters’ compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne, the world number one, is also a doubtful starter for the French Open because of a viral infection. Henin-Hardenne beat Clijsters in the Paris final last year. – Agencies