Tennis: Henman faces up to clay

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TIM HENMAN has already conceded defeat in his French Open campaign. Clay is not Henman's strongest suit and he has never reached the quarter- finals of any tournament on the surface.

Speaking at the launch of the Lawn Tennis Association's "Play Tennis" youth initiative, the British No 1 admitted that next month's tournament will not earn him a first Grand Slam victory.

"I think that realistically I'm not going to win the French Open," he said yesterday. "Winning the doubles at Monte Carlo was a bit of a surprise. But improving my world ranking in doubles doesn't really matter," he added.

But Henman believes that his Monte Carlo doubles success is the perfect platform for a prolonged run on clay courts. Roland Garros has always been Henman's nemesis as he seeks a first-ever third-round place. "The Monte Carlo win was all good work - there's no better way of practising than in a match situation," he explained.

"It has helped my all-round game develop and I feel that in the last two weeks my clay court game has improved enormously. I've come on better in a fortnight this year than the six or seven weeks I put in last season."

Henman sees his recent performances as a watershed for this season, setting him up for a better run in the clay section of the Grand Slam season.

"Until recently I've not really been playing as well as last year," he added.

Goran Ivanisevic, the second-seeded Croatian, lost to the little-known German Markus Hantschk at the Czech Open yesterday, raising questions about his morale.

Ivanisevic led 7-6 when the match was suspended late on Tuesday because of darkness. When it resumed, Hantschk won the next two sets 6-2, 6-4 in 61 minutes, with Ivanisevic apparently intentionally missing a few returns and drawing jeers from the fans.

The Croat also faces a fine for refusing to attend a news conference after the match. Ivanisevic's defeat leaves only four seeded players in the tournament. The top seed, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and the fourth seed, Marat Safin, both of Russia, were removed in the first round. The fifth seed, Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, withdrew from the tournament because of a fever.

Results, Digest, page 27