Henman resilient under pressure

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The Independent Online
Tim Henman continued to demonstrate why he is regarded as Britain's brightest hope when he produced a gallant performance to upset the No 16 seed, Javier Frana, and reach the second round of the Stella Artois grass-court championships yesterday.

Frana is unusual in that he is an Argentinian who favours grass over clay. A committed serve and volleyer, he proved an ideal opponent for Henman to test himself against. There was little to choose between their games, but Frana definitely had the edge in size and strength.

In the end that advantage was cancelled out by Henman's resilience under pressure, and his ability to lift his game when he most needed to, rather than slump into defeat when the going got tough.

Henman began by taking a 3-0 lead, was broken back in the fifth game and held a set point at 6- 5, which he lost when he hit a poor return. Frana took the tie-break and swiftly built a 3-0 lead in the second.

Frana though had problems with his serve, and Henman took advantage. The Argentinian twice double-faulted to set up break points, and on both occasions Henman accepted his opportunity. In the final set Henman sneaked ahead 4-3, double-faulted to lose his serve, but kept his head, broke again and served out for the match.

"I was anxious to perform well, and to perform well and win is a bonus," Henman said. "When you're 3-0 down in the second set you've got your back against the wall, but the chances I was having I knew I would take them eventually." If Henman defeats the Russian Andrei Olhovskiy today, he will face Thomas Muster, the top seed and world No 2, in the third round.

The Austrian won his first tournament match on grass when he beat France's Guillaume Raoux 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 after two and a half hours. ``I really enjoyed playing. I have no pressure on this surface because nobody has any expectations of me," Muster said.

"It's the low bounce that gives me a problem. Nothing comes by instinct. It's quite hard work for me, but I played well and it gives me confidence for my next matches."

Chris Wilkinson was unfortunate to draw Guy Forget in the opening round, and was dismissed 6-2, 7-6. Forget's pedigree at Queen's is excellent. Last year the elegant Frenchman beat Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic before losing the final to Pete Sampras in two tie-breaks without dropping his serve, and he looked in equally good form yesterday.

Although he produced nine aces, his first serve was not quite up to scratch, but for a player who was involved in the French Open up until the final weekend, finishing as runner-up in the doubles event, a rough edge or two could be forgiven.

Boris Becker, playing his first match since injuring a thigh muscle which forced him to miss the French Open, eased to a 6-4, 6-2 win over a qualifier Chris Haggard, who was playing in his first ATP tour event. Now, the injury is fine.

"At this stage I can say that everything is perfect. It took two weeks of treatment in Munich, and I came to Queen's last week and have been hitting balls for 10 days now. It's very good to be back on grass," he said.

Most of the wild cards for Wimbledon have been announced, with places going to Chris Wilkinson, Danny Sapsford, Mark Petchey, Jeremy Bates, Nick Gould and Luke Milligan. With no British women ranked highly enough for direct entry, the beneficiaries are Clare Wood, Samantha Smith, Rachel Viollett and Megan Miller.