Henman must meet Stich

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The Independent Online
Tim Henman, the first British player to gain a place in the Grand Slam Cup since the tournament began in 1990, will have the odds stacked against him when he plays the opening match at the Olympiahalle Stadium in Munich today.

Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion from Germany whom Henman has been drawn against in the first round, has been in Munich for the past seven days preparing for the event.

"I won this tournament four years ago and am very keen to win it again," Stich said. "To win an event in Germany in front of my own people is obviously very important. It gives me that little extra incentive."

Henman did not even learn he was in the tournament, following the withdrawal of the American trio of Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Todd Martin, until the weekend and has not hit a ball since he won the British National championships at Telford more than two weeks ago.

What makes Henman's task even more difficult is that Stich is not at all nervous when playing before his home crowd. He has won 18 titles on the ATP Tour and seven of them have been in Germany.

Henman has never played Stich before and at 6ft 4in, the big-serving German is particularly menacing on indoor courts and not only won the Grand Slam Cup in 1992 but was also runner-up in 1993.

Henman, however, has been outstanding during the past 12 months, having reached six ATP Tour semi-finals since January and, in reaching the last eight at Wimbledon, defeated Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the first round.

Whatever his fate today, the 22-year-old Henman is guaranteed $100,000 (pounds 60,864) in prize-money.

COMPAQ GRAND SLAM CUP (Munich): M Stich (Ger) v T Henman (GB); M Washington (US) v R Krajicek (Neth); B Becker (Ger) v J Stoltenberg (Aus); J Hlasek (Swit) v C Pioline (Fr); M Rosset (Swit) v J Courier (US); T Enqvist (Swe) v Y Kafelnikov (Rus); A Agassi (US) v M Woodforde (Aus); M Tillstrom (Swe) v G Ivanisevic (Croa).