Tennis: Successful exit for Henman

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The Independent Online
Tim Henman waved goodbye to the British National Championships yesterday by completing a hat-trick of titles in Telford.

He beat Chris Wilkinson 6-1, 6-4 in little more than an hour and then reiterated to the crowd that he would not be returning, preferring to concentrate on trying to push into the world's top 10.

Currently No 17 he certainly played like a man on the up, serving aggressively, volleying sharply and hitting some wonderful forehands from the back of the court.

Henman was as consistent yesterday as he was inconsistent on Saturday, when an error-strewn performance had placed him in danger of defeat against Danny Sapsford.

The champion had looked extremely jaded and occasionally fretful after his hectic journey to and from the ATP World Championship in Hannover on Friday, and had to haul himself back from a set and a break down.

"It isn't normal that you get a chance to play in two tournaments at the same time and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible," said Henman, who was much fresher mentally and physically for the final.

Indeed, Wilkinson appeared to catch the backlash of Henman's stumbling performance against Sapsford. "I know Chris is a capable player and I wanted to make life as easy as possible," Henman explained.

"I served more aggressively, cut out unforced errors and made things difficult for him. I'm very pleased to finish the week with that kind of performance."

Although Wilkinson had a break point in the fifth game, which Henman saved with a heavy first serve, it was not until the sixth that Wilkinson broke his duck, holding his serve after two deuces.

After surviving a break point against him in the opening game of the second set, Wilkinson grew in confidence and three games later had one brief chance to take hold of the match, a break point at 30-40 on Henman's serve at 2-1.

Henman saved that with an ace down the middle and was never in trouble again. His decisive break of Wilkinson's serve came in the seventh game, when he was able to attack the delivery, getting to the net once as well as striking three winners.

"There wasn't much I could do," Wilkinson said. "He played superbly. Whatever I did, he did something better.

"It's absolutely fine by me that he doesn't come back next year - it will give me a much better chance."