THE ATP men’s tour moved to Hamburg last week, but man of the moment, Rafael Nadal, was not in Germany. The 18-year-old Spaniard, victorious in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome over the past four weeks and already ranked No.5 in the world, withdrew with a blistered hand, preferring to go into the second Grand Slam event of the season, next week’s French Open, fully fit.
In his absence, top seed and World No.1, Roger Federer, breezed through the opening rounds, notably gaining revenge over his Athens Olympics conqueror in the process. The Swiss destroyed Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-1 in the second round.
Andre Agassi did not get that far. The 35-year-old American blamed the cold and damp conditions for his 2-6, 6-7 first round defeat at the hands of unseeded Feliciano Lopez, ranked 26 on the ATP computer. David Nalbandian also headed for an early plane home, together with Andy Roddick, beaten 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 by Nicolas Massu.
Gustavo Kuerten and Marat Safin became the most prominent second-round losers, but British interest was focused on the first-ever meeting on clay between Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. Henman edged the first set 7-6 and went on to claim the second set and the match 6-4 from his former Davis Cup team-mate. In typical Henman fashion, the British No.1 promptly lost out 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Juan Ignacio Chela, after a line call dispute disrupted his concentration.
In the semifinals, Federer took on Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko after disposing of Guillermo Coria in straight sets. Following a sleepy start, the top seed came through 6-3, 6-4 to set up a rematch with French teenager, Richard Gasquet, who outclassed Christophe Rochus 6-1, 6-1.
In the final, Federer proved too strong, winning through 6-3, 7-5, 7-6, to give notice of his intent for next week’s Roland Garros showpiece.