Henman's humbling of Stich

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The Independent Online
Tennis

Tim Henman earned pounds 2,500 a minute yesterday as his outstanding year continued with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Michael Stich in the first round of the Grand Slam Cup in Munich.

Henman, who earned a place as a reserve at the tournament by reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals and was then handed a chance to play after late withdrawals, picked up pounds 160,000 for his win. In just 63 minutes, the 22-year-old Henman made more than twice his earnings for the whole of last year.

"Don't get me wrong. I prefer to have the money than not have it, but it's not the reason why I play the game," he said. "I've always said it's more my hobby than my occupation. It's nice to play in a tournament like this where there are obviously huge amounts of money at stake. But I don't think the way I played today was as if I was just focused on the money. I was just happy to get on with things."

At 29 in the world rankings, Henman is 13 places below the 28-year-old Stich and has nowhere near his opponent's experience, yet he completely outplayed him. The German has not only won Wimbledon, but has been runner- up at the US Open and only this year was the beaten finalist at the French Open.

"I was very pleased. I hit with Jim Courier yesterday for an hour and a half. That was the first time I had played in two weeks so to come out and hit the ball as well as I did today was a big bonus. It was sort of a nice surprise for me," Henman said.

"I wanted to try to concentrate on my own serve. The first couple of games I thought were important, then I started to create a few opportunities on his serve and then I took them. I feel great."

Stich, who has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, said: "I am not complaining, I am glad I played. Tim was very good, he didn't have a lot of mistakes. He gave me a hard time."

Henman went on court yesterday without a trace of nervousness. He had not hit a ball in earnest since beating Greg Rusedski in the final of the British National Championships at Telford more than two weeks ago, yet he played as if he had never been away. It was his most impressive victory since beating Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the French Open champion, in the first round at Wimbledon in June.

However, a month ago he was not even a reserve for this event which consists of the 16 players who have done best in the four Grand Slam tournaments during the year. Henman, having reached the last eight at Wimbledon and the last 16 at the US Open, was in 20th place.

Then Thomas Muster and Stefan Edberg withdrew, leaving Henman as second reserve.

And it was only Monday that Henman learned he was in the tournament proper following further withdrawals by Americans Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Todd Martin.

Henman might count himself fortunate, but he took his chance well, playing with increasing confidence both from the back of the court and at the net. Even when he double-faulted on his first match point at 5-3 in the second set, Henman did not lose his cool. He merely forced Stich to hit a forehand over the baseline to reach match point again and then hit a service winner to end the contest.

Henman's opponent in the second round tomorrow is MaliVai Washington, who beat the reigning Wimbledon champion, Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-2.

The American - who was the man beaten by Krajicek in the Wimbledon final - is one of the fastest movers in the game, but the British No 1 will not lack confidence as he beat Washington 6-3, 7-5 at the Nottingham tournament on grass in June.

GRAND SLAM CUP (Munich) First round: T Henman (GB) bt M Stich (Ger) 6- 3 6-3; B Becker (Ger) bt J Stoltenberg (Aus) 6-3 6-2; M Washington (US) bt R Krajicek (Neth) 6-1 6-2; J Courier (US) bt M Rosset (Swit) 7-5 6- 2.

France's heroes, page 25

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