Tennis: Wimbledon - Henman in Black mood

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The Independent Online
WIMBLEDON is 115 matches ahead of where it was at this time last year, but one player - some would say the player - is behind schedule. Tim Henman held the advantage, possibly a decisive one, over Zimbabwe's Byron Black when they were forced off Centre Court last night.

Henman, the 12th seed, leads the third-round match 6-4, 3-2, although the scoreline hides the not insignificant fact that the British No 2 is a break up in the second set.

He will resume today hoping his indifferent period is over. The first set fell a long way short of a classic even if its duration, 48 minutes, suggested epic overtones. That was not counting a break for rain.

Both players appeared nervous from the start. Henman had three chances to break his opponent in the opening game and let them slip through his fingers, and even when he did pounce on Black's serve to go 3-2 ahead he surrendered his own straight away.

Those things prey on the minds of players, particularly when they have to come off court due to rain, but when he returned for four games between the showers Henman made them count. The crucial one was the ninth when the British No 2 missed six break points and was wondering when he would get a return in again before he made the seventh count. The set was rounded off in more emphatic style with an ace.

If Henman proceeds he will have to draw several more aces from the deck as the US Open winner, Patrick Rafter, stands between him and a place in the quarter-finals. The Australian defeated Magnus Gustafsson 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 yesterday and then had conflicting information for the man who will face him in the next round. "If I can get some more rhythm on my serve I think my chances are as good as anyone else's," he said.

Rafter's prospects, though, may be compromised by the fact that he is, by his own description, having trouble tossing the ball up. It's not helping his serve. "It's gradually getting a little bit worse," he said.

Goran Ivanisevic's delivery is as reliable and destructive as ever and he sent 26 aces past Andrei Medvedev as he completed a 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-0 victory. From an overnight position of two sets to one up, Ivanisevic needed just 18 minutes to close out the match.

The No 14 seed pumped himself up by watching the first half of Croatia's World Cup game with Argentina. When his boys went behind Ivanisevic went out and destroyed Medvedev. "If I play like this anything is possible," he said. "It was very high quality tennis that I played yesterday and today I continued to play great tennis. The last time I felt this good was in 1994, when I played in the final here."