Henman capitalises on US Open opportunity

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The Independent Online


reports from New York

Having put behind him the disgrace of being the first player ever to be disqualified at Wimbledon, Britain's Tim Henman made an encouraging debut at the United States Open yesterday.

Qualifying for the main draw was an achievement in itself, given the nation's dismal record in recent years. Henman capitalised, winning his opening match against Juan Viloca, of Spain, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 6-2. Other Britons fared less well. Jeremy Bates was defeated by Emilio Sanchez, of Spain, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, and Mark Petchey, of Essex, lost to the South African Marcos Ondruska, 7-6, 6-1, 6-0. Petchey's day deteriorated after he failed to convert a set point at 5-4 and then lost the tie-break 7- 0.

Henman recovered after faltering in the second set, having broken the Spaniard in the opening game. Three netted forehands at 4-5 meant that the Briton would be in action for two hours and 15 minutes. In the second round, he meets Jared Palmer, best known for his doubles play in the United States Davis Cup team.

It is little more than a year since the 20-year-old Henman's progress was interrupted for five months by a broken ankle. Even before that, a degree of concern had been expressed about his physical development. Steps have been taken to increase his strength by recruiting the help of Tim Newenham, a trainer who has worked with the British Olympic javelin squad.

While Henman was playing his first match in a Grand Slam other than Wimbledon, Stefan Edberg was on the Stadium Court, opening his 50th consecutive Grand Slam tournament. Unseeded for the first time in a decade, Edberg took less than two hours to dismiss the Czech Martin Damm, 6-0, 6-3, 7-6. Edberg enjoyed some of the finest moments of his career on the Stadium Court when winning the title in 1991 and 1992.

Edberg was then coached by Britain's Tony Pickard, whose latest client, the Czech Petr Korda, was fortunate to advance yesterday. His first-round opponent, Shuzo Matsuoka of Japan, collapsed with severe cramp and had to retire when leading, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 5-6.

The day began with breakfast with the Jensens, Luke and Murphy, together with Brenda Shultz-McCarthy. Murphy, it may be remembered, was disqualified at Wimbledon for failing to turn up for his second-round mixed doubles match with the Dutch-born American. His explanation was that he decided to go on a fishing trip. "There's a fine line," McCarthy said when asked to comment on how the Jensens set out to combine tennis with fun.

Although the brothers have conspicuously lacked success since winning the French Open men's doubles title in 1993, they continue to attract interest in the States. Last year, more spectators stayed for one of their late night doubles matches on the Grandstand Court than watched a singles on the adjacent Stadium Court. "Midnight madness," Luke called it.

Luke, a wild card in the singles, has an interesting first-round match tomorrow against Thomas Muster, the French Open champion, who on Sunday added the Croatian title to his impressive list.