Tennis: Henman horror show goes on

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TIM HENMAN'S greatest ambition is to win a Grand Slam tournament and he will probably never have a better chance than at the Australian Open which begins in Melbourne on Monday.

The British No 1 has been given an outstanding draw, and on all known form it will be a major shock if he does not reach at least the last eight and justify his sixth seeding.

Greg Rusedski, the British No 2, seeded eighth, does not have quite such a good draw as Henman but has every chance of a good run if he can shrug off two recent first-round defeats.

Henman is remaining positive despite four successive defeats, three of them in the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament at Melbourne this week where he yesterday lost 7-5, 6-1 to the 86th-ranked Swede Michael Tillstrom.

"If I continue the progress I've made in the last six months, the quarter- finals of a Slam is not what I'm going to be looking for," he said. "I shall be hoping to get to the finals and winning them, and Australia would be a good place to start."

Rusedski is just as forthright. "I've won through to the US Open final but I've never taken the next step of winning a Grand Slam. That is my next target," he said.

Henman has been drawn to play the Moroccan Karim Alami, who is ranked 53 in the world, in the first round and should be confident. He recently beat Alami 6-4, 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Doha tournament. If successful he will then play either the Argentinian Guillermo Canas or the Australian Sandon Stolle. Henman had to struggle a little before beating Canas in their only meeting in the Canadian Open last year and has never met the big-serving Stolle.

But on the rubberised Melbourne surface Henman will be more at home against Canas, a clay-court specialist, while Stolle, a wild card, has gone out to 240 in the world rankings.

The first seed Henman can meet is the Croat Goran Ivanisevic, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, in the fourth round. A formidable task perhaps, but Henman has met Ivanisevic three times and won all three.

Rusedski should not be too unhappy with his draw. He plays the Australian Scott Draper in the first round, an opponent he has beaten three times out of three, and then should meet Danish left-hander Kenneth Carlsen, against whom he has won two out two.

Rusedski's first seeded opponent should be the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov. That would be difficult, but Rusedski beat Kafelnikov - admittedly in tight third sets - in both meetings they had last year.