TENNIS - Hamburg climb-down.jpg

TENNIS – Hamburg climb-down

THE GERMAN Open was robbed of much of its significance by the last minute withdrawal of its top two seeds, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The pair declared themselves too exhausted, following their titanic five-hour battle in Rome, and preferred to rest ahead of the French Grand Slam event. In their absence Greg Rusedski was hoping to celebrate his new status as British number one with a good run, but the 31-year-old crashed out 6-1, 6-1 to French qualifier Gilles Simon in round one. Andrew Murray flattered only to deceive: a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win over the promising former junior world champion Gael Monfils, was followed by an equally clear-cut 6-3, 6-3 defeat at the hands of James Blake. Czech hope, Radek Stepanek, looked promising on his way to the final, but proved no match for Spain’s Tommy Robredo. The eighth seed, who had disposed of Mario Ancic in the semis, enjoyed a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 success to take only his second ATP Tour title.

The women’s circuit moved to Italy, where Dinara Safina took advantage of some lack-lustre displays from much higher ranked Russian opponents to reach the final. Unseeded Martina Hingis marched through the other half of the draw, staging a magnificent semi-final come-back against Venus Williams. Against Safina, Hingis avoided another cliff-hanger, claiming her first title in four years with a straight sets victory.

The clay court season reaches its climax this week in Paris with the French Open at Roland Garros.