Tennis: High five becomes Henman target

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TIM HENMAN and Greg Rusedski embark this week on a two-man mission to revive the corpse of the country's sporting summer. Both will take part in the Stella Artois Championships, which began yesterday at the Queen's Club, in south London, and with Wimbledon less than a fortnight away the pressure will be on to do something that the nation's footballers and cricketers have failed to do in recent weeks - justify their place among the world's elite.

In the latest world rankings, Henman has risen to No 6, equalling the high point he last achieved in March. "I'm delighted," he said. "My next aim has to be to get into the top five."

Whether that can be achieved will depend largely on how he performs in the coming month - not least at Wimbledon, where he will be looking to better last year's performance, in which he lost in the semi-final to Pete Sampras. First, however, comes the Stella, where both Henman and Rusedski have received byes into the second round. Henman's opener, scheduled for today, will be against either the American Cecil Memitt or the German, Axel Pretsch.

"Scheduled" is the operative word. Under leaden skies that only turned blue for short spells, heavy showers played havoc with yesterday's ties, and nothing seems more likely this week than a confused and congested order of play. Should Henman advance as far as the semi-finals, he is drawn to meet Rusedski, who remained at No 13 in yesterday's world rankings.

Rusedski, whose Wimbledon hopes last year were ended by an ankle injury he had picked up at Queen's two weeks before, is likely to have to wait until tomorrow to play his opening Stella match. He will meet either the American Paul Goldstein, who is ranked No 111 and surprisingly beat him at the Australian Open in January, or the Japanese qualifier, Goichi Motomura.

Boris Becker, playing in his 11th and final Stella, is looking for a record-breaking fifth win here, but will have to wait until 2.0pm today to continue his match with Petr Korda. Rain stopped play in the second game of the first set yesterday, with Becker leading 1-0 after breaking his opponent's serve.

Some other play was possible, and South Africa's Wayne Ferreira came from a set down against last year's losing finalist, Laurence Tieleman, to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.