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Kucera Steals Swiss Final


Slovakia's Karol Kucera confiscated Tim Henman's Swiss Indoors crown Sunday, defeating the Briton in a dramatic, five-set final.

Kucera fended off a formidable comeback effort by Henman, winning two tie-breaks to finally prevail 6-4, 7-6 (12-10), 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2) in four hours.

"It's my fifth title and I think it must be the toughest final I ever fought," said Kucera, whose last title dates to 1998 when he won in New Haven, Conn. "For sure it was my greatest final."

"I believed in myself and I won."

The victory marked a successful return from injury for the Slovak, who was sidelined for two months because of a wrist injury and has only played one match since.

Kucera's impressive run began when he downed seventh-seeded Nicolas Lapentti in the opening round before toppling top-ranked Andre Agassi in two sets in the quarterfinals.

Kucera began the final match on a strong note, breaking Henman's opening serve on the way to taking the set, then taking the second in a gripping tiebreak.

Then, Henman began to chip away at Kucera's lead, beginning with an early break to go 3-1 in the third set. Kucera fought to regain his serve, squandering a break point in the very next game and another pair at 5-3, costing him the set.

On a roll, Henman equalized the match at two sets each after breaking early in the fourth.

In the fifth, the two fought for control of the match, trading breaks early in the set and repeatedly taking the games to deuce.

It wasn't until the tiebreak that Kucera got the upperhand, winning the four final points.

"In the second set, I was very aware that I hadn't played in a long time," said Kucera, who went out in the opening round in Tashkent two weeks. "I was a bit worried in the second set when I was beginning to feel a bit weak."

"Though my wrist was fine for the first four sets, in the fifth I started to feel a bit of pain, especially when Tim was hitting his first serve especially hard and on my forehand."

Henman, whose trip to the final boosted him to eighth place and solidified his chances at a berth in the World Championships, appeared visibly disappointed by the defeat.

"It was disappointing to lose such a match in five sets," said Henman, after losing his fourth title this year. "He's a very deceptive player because you don't think he's putting any effort into his tennis but he's all over the court."

"Against an opponent like him, who returns so well, you can't take your serve lightly or take your service game for granted," said Henman, whose last title was came last year when he clamed this title.

Despite the defeat, Henman broke out of a recent rut that included three first-round exits in his last seven tournaments. He defeated French Open finalist Andrei Medvedev and three-time Wimbledon finalist Goran Ivanisevic en route to the final.

"This week boosted my confidence," said Henman, who crashed out in the first round of the U.S. Open. "I have no regrets. I couldn't have played better."

"But while it's disappointing, at this point in my form I only want to look at the positive."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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