Tennis: Henman's confidence on clay grows after picking off Apell

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The Independent Online
TIM HENMAN enjoyed a breakthrough of a kind on clay yesterday when he won his first- round match at the German Open in Hamburg, one of the Mercedes Super Nine events.

The British No 2 and world 17 stormed past Jan Apell of Sweden 6-3, 6- 2. It was only Henman's second victory on his least favourite surface this season. Britain's world No 5, Greg Rusedski, has failed to win a match on clay this year.

Also through are the former French Open champions, Michael Chang and Sergi Bruguera. Chang, the 11th-seeded American, needed three sets to overcome David Prinosil of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in a battle between two wild cards. Bruguera defeated fellow Spaniard Jacobo Diaz 6-2, 6-1.

Chang, who was out of action in March with a knee injury, lost his concentration in the second set, losing the last four games. But he bounced back immediately in the third, breaking Prinosil's serve and jumping to a 4-1 lead.

Prinosil saved two match points with service winners but Chang converted the third with a forehand winner. "I am just about 100 per cent," Chang said of his fitness. "I've been fortunate in my career that I've had few major injuries."

Top seed Pete Sampras ended his four-year drought on clay by holding off the second seed, Jason Stoltenberg of Australia, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the AT&T Challenge in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday.

Sampras, who regained the world No 1 ranking last Monday, won his second ATP Tour title of the year and 54th of his career, but his first on clay since the 1994 Italian Open.

"It's nice to win a title, even though people say it's green clay and it's faster [than European red clay]." Sampras said. "This was the slowest week of clay I've ever played. It was great confidence builder," added Sampras who is still looking for his first French Open title, the only Grand Slam to elude him.