Henman tipped to go all the way

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The Independent Online
Britain's Tim Henman, who has enjoyed the most lucrative week of his life at the Grand Slam Cup, is capable of getting to the very top, Boris Becker's former coach said yesterday.

Henman, who faces Becker in the first of Saturday's semi-finals of the $6m (pounds 3.75m) event where $812,500 will be at stake, plays some shots like the world No 1, Pete Sampras - according to Germany's Davis Cup coach, Niki Pilic.

"When I first saw him some of his strokes reminded me of Pete Sampras," said Pilic who has worked with some of the best players in the game. "He is capable of getting into the top 10."

Henman, ranked 29th in the world, has already earned $431,250 for reaching the last four of the richest tournament in tennis, doubling his earnings for the year. He is the biggest surprise of the event which pays out $1.625m to the winner.

The Briton gave a commanding display of serving in a quarter-final defeat of Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington on Thursday. Today's match with Becker is arguably the biggest test of his career.

Pilic, who has worked closely with Becker for many years, said it was not impossible that the Briton might cause an upset.

But he faces an immense task against the three-times Wimbledon champion who is playing some of the best tennis of his life and has the advantage of playing in front of his fanatical home supporters.

"It is possible [that Henman could win]," Pilic said. "But it would be a very big surprise. Boris is playing so well. He is serving so well and he has a lot of confidence. But it is not impossible."

Becker is taking nothing for granted against the Briton and was training hard for the match on Friday. "Once you get to the stage of playing a semi-final, whoever you are going to play has won two tough matches already," the German said. "At that stage the name doesn't matter anymore."

Henman himself admits: "I need to get fitter and stronger to build up my stamina and enable me to play rallies of 50 strokes like you have to do in Paris."

But Henman knows that against Becker he will have no such problems. The rallies against the big-serving German should be extremely short. Becker is not a man of unlimited patience. He has one of the biggest serves in the game and if Henman is to stand any chance of victory in this best- of-five-sets semi-final he must match his opponent in serving power.

The defending champion, Goran Ivanisevic, used his big serve to cruise into the semi- finals for the fourth time yesterday by beating Mark Woodforde 6-4, 6- 4. Ivanisevic blasted 16 aces past the Australian doubles specialist, taking him past the 1,500 mark - to 1,511 aces for the year.

Ivanisevic now meets Yevgeny Kafelnikov who reached the last four by beating the former world No 1 Jim Courier 2-6, 6-4, 8-6 in the closest match of the tournament so far.

GRAND SLAM CUP (Munich) Quarter-final: G Ivanisevic (Croa) bt M Woodforde (Aus) 6-4 6-4; Y Kafelnikov (Rus) bt J Courier (US) 2-6 6-4 8-6.

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