The first ATP and WTA Masters Series events got underway in the US last week, offering big bucks. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were brimming with stars, and mediocre Davis Cup form was left well behind. Tim Henman enjoyed his usual rollercoaster ride, reaching the quarter finals by looking sharp against the likes of Jurgen Melzer and Tommy Robredo before bowing out in accustomed fashion to Guillermo Camas. Australian Open champion, Marat Safin was just not in the mood. He meticulously smashed one of his 300 euro rackets after going out 7-5 6-4 to unheralded Taylor Dent. In the Russian’s case, genius is volatile. The gifted David Nalbandian “enjoyed” a similar exit, gifting Nicolas Kiefer a 6-1 6-3 win, the German falling thereafter to Roger Federer cantering through the field. Federer once more looked untouchable, meeting Lleyton Hewitt who just overcame Andy Roddick 7-6 6-7 7-6 in their semis in the final. Hewitt does not like playing the Swiss World No. 1 and this time was no different, the Australian losing in straight sets.
In the “Pacific Life”, Amelie Mauresmo had a great chance of taking over at the top of the rankings but was beaten 6-2 2-6 5-7 by yet another Russian startlet, Evgenia Linetskaya, in round three. “Veteran” Maria Sharapova also reached the quarter finals, as did fellow Russians Kuznetsova, Dementieva and Kritenko. Trying to stop the Russian hordes was Kim Clijsters on her come back after a nine-month injury lay off. Sharapova dismissed France’s Mary Pierce to reach the semis, another French woman, Natalie Dechy, failed to prevent Lindsay Davenport from also reaching the last four. Serena Williams did not enter the equation – she gave this tournament a wide birth. Sharapova went down 6-0 6-0 to Davenport who in turn was beaten 6-4 4-6 6-2 by the Belgian comeback kid.