Thriller keeps Henman's dream alive

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The Independent Online
HE COULD have polished it off in two games. But Tim Henman won the hard way, taking two nail-biting hours yesterday to defeat the American Jim Courier and secure a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. The British number one kept his nerve to save three match points in the fifth set and went on to take the match, receiving a standing ovation.

Also cheered to the rafters was three-times champion Boris Becker, who bowed outafter being beaten in straight sets by the Australian Pat Rafter. Becker, 31, whose Wimbledon career began in 1984, retires later this year.

Henman's victory was consolation for fans who earlier saw the other remaining Briton, Greg Rusedski, lose to the Australian Mark Philippoussis. Rusedski, British number two, was treated for a hamstring injury in the fourth set. Philippoussis, who now faces champion Pete Sampras, often served at more than 130mph in the battle of the world's two fastest servers.

Henman, 24, led the unseeded Courier by two sets to one and by four games to three when the match was halted by rain on Monday. On Tuesday they were on court for less than a minute before the covers went on again.

Henman, who dreams of being the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, gave fans some anxious moments yesterday during a fifth set that was pure drama. Tension rose and the umpire appealed for quiet as flag-waving spectators chanted, squealed and wolf-whistled.

Usually undemonstrative, Henman half-sank to his knees and smashed a ball high into the stands when he finally clinched the match. He meets Cedric Pioline of France today.

Anna Kournikova, the Russian whose minuscule outfits have attracted as much attention as her tennis, lost in three sets to the American Venus Williams.