Lee's feat keeps Henman company

Tennis

On the day that Tim Henman reached the third round of a tournament for the first time in nearly four months, his thunder was stolen by a Briton three years his junior for whom playing in any round of a senior tournament is something of a novelty.

Martin Lee is 19, supports Millwall, and sports a yellow and blue shirt that gives football kit manufacturers a bad name. If you saw him in the street you might think he was a callow teenager who looked at the ground too much. But the Londoner was the best young player in the world a year ago, has a brilliant natural talent, and after a period of adjustment is using the Stella Artois Championships to announce it to his elders, but not necessarily betters. On Monday he beat Andrei Olhovskiy, the Russian grass-court specialist who is ranked 354 places above him at 146. That victory was Lee's best for precisely 24 hours, because he yesterday dispatched the American Alex O'Brien, the world No 34, to claim an unlikely place in the third round. Much more of this and Henman and Greg Rusedski may soon have another Briton joining them in the game's upper reaches.

As has become his custom, Lee indulged in the sophisticated psychological ploy of dropping the first set against O'Brien, though yesterday's 6-3 reverse was hardly in Monday's 6-0 class in the false sense of security stakes. O'Brien, for whom the word solid summed up his appearance and his game, took the set gratefully, vociferously supported by a small group in the front row for whom there appears to be a small corner of a foreign field that will be forever Texas.

Lee responded by breaking O'Brien in the first game of the second set, but was immediately broken back, and while the left-hander displayed a far greater range of shots, O'Brien's experience prevented a second breakthrough. The crucial moment came with Lee trailing 0-30 at 5-5 when the umpire overruled a line call which would have granted the American three break points. O'Brien was infuriated, but Lee kept his cool and won the next four points. "That really geed me up," Lee said. And he went on to win the tie-break.

After another exchange of breaks in the final set, Lee, who like just about every other British tennis player these days looks like he could do with a square meal or two, made a decisive move at 4-4 when a lovely running backhand converted his third break point. He served out comfortably and his 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory was greeted with raucous applause on Court One, though O'Brien left still complaining bitterly about the overrule.

"I'm getting mentally tougher," Lee said. "In quite a lot of matches I've been very close and lost 6-4 in the third. But I felt very confident today."

Henman was one of many fellow countrymen impressed by Lee's performances this week. "They show a lot of character. This is a breakthrough for him," he said.

Having begun the week with 46 points, Lee will soar up the rankings having already gained another 34 here. His next opponent is likely to be Goran Ivanisevic, against whom Henman had just one piece of advice: "Hold your own serve."

Henman himself adopted the Lee route to victory, dropping the first set before beating Andrew Richardson 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. It was a welcome return to form for the 22-year-old who has struggled since his elbow injury, losing three out of four matches on clay.

In his fellow Briton, Henman knew he faced an opponent who knew his game intimately from the hours the two have spent on the practice court together. They are old friends, and even ate together beforehand, but once the match started neither betrayed any sign of undue amiability. "Out there, it's business," Henman said.

Business went Richardson's way early on but once Henman had adapted to the blustery conditions his sharper volleying brought a comfortable victory. With Henman and Lee through Briton had two players in the third round for the first time in the history of these championships.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there