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Becker, Henman in Grand Slam Semis

December 5, 1996

MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ Boris Becker, roared on by his hometown crowd, sent Jakob Hlasek back into retirement Thursday with a 6-4, 6-1 victory at the Grand Slam Cup.

``It’s a loss for the tour,″ Becker said. ``He’s played so well for so long and he is a very nice guy. But everyone has to know when to retire.″

In defeating the Swiss star, Becker advanced to the semifinals of the world’s richest tennis tournament and will next face Tim Henman.

Henman downed Wimbledon runner-up MaliVai Washington 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 and more than doubled his earnings for the year on the biggest payday of his career.

``Played for a lot of money today, make no bones about it,″ Henman said. ``I’m not complaining, that’s for sure.″

Hlasek was only an alternate for this $6 million tournament, which features the 16 men with the best records in the year’s four Grand Slam events. The winner earns $1.6 million.

But with five players withdrawing, including No. 1 Pete Sampras and No. 2 Michael Chang, Hlasek was asked if he wanted to play.

Although he had already retired in November, he agreed. And by clearing the first round against Cedric Pioline, Hlasek took a retirement bonus of $262,500.

``I am not disappointed at all,″ Hlasek said. ``I wanted to have a lot of fun on the court. But Boris was a bit too good. It was a bit less fun.″

Becker clearly was in no mood for joking. He broke for a 3-2 lead and had no trouble thereafter. He started the second set with another break and romped through the match in 58 minutes, firing 17 aces.

Becker’s only slip came when he served for the match at 5-0. Hlasek took a racket in each hand, but it didn’t help and he lost the point when his left-handed return went wide.

He cut the clowning and broke Becker for the only time, albeit helped by two straight double-faults by the German.

``Something strange happened,″ said Becker, who made four straight errors to lose the game. ``All of a sudden I couldn’t put a serve in the court.″

But he rallied in the next and when Hlasek’s backhand volley sailed long, his career through. His was given a standing ovation in the Olympic Hall and received a bouquet of red roses.

``I’m not going to think too much about what I did wrong today,″ Hlasek said. ``It’s over.″

Coming into Munich, Henman’s earnings stood at $421,997. Making it to the semifinals brought the Englishman $431,250. In two years on the tour, he had won $591,432, not counting this tournament.

Henman, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, blasted 20 aces. He broke for 2-0 and 4-0 in the second set. He wasted a match point and then double-faulted at break point while serving for the match. In his next service game he rallied and won the match when Washington hit a return long.

``It’s definitely up there with one of my best performances,″ Henman said.

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